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Monday, July 27, 2009

The absurdity of ‘misconduct’ in politics

In any society, there are those in power and there is the opposition. It makes sense that the opposition will disagree with the governing power’s policies. And yet, many countries such as Canada have a strange system where even if the country fairly votes a particular leader in, the opposition can call an election at any time, assuming a majority government was not achieved. Majority governments are hard to make happen without the candidates shifting towards the centre to get all those “swing” votes. In reality “swing voters” are people who either know very little about politics or only care enough to vote but not enough to make an informed decision. These people call themselves “centrists” or “moderates” out of fear of having to defend their views if challenged (too much work). My point is that with minority governments, it’s hard to get things done effectively and efficiently. In most cases the matter takes longer than it should and is often watered down by the opposition trying to pull the policy a little bit more to their side of the political spectrum. It’s very annoying to have election after election gobbling up the public’s money, not to mention their political interest. If there’s a way to get bad voter turnout, it’s to have election after election in such short periods of time; the more one does something the less special it becomes each time. Finally, I believe giving the losers of elections continued employment in the public life ensures that they keep trying their clearly unpopular policies. What good is that? Where’s the incentive to scrap bad policies and adapt to what’s needed and wanted?

Interestingly enough, Edmunde Burke warned of this over three centuries ago: “No government could stand a moment, if it could be blown down with anythign so loose and indefinite as an opinion of ‘misconduct’”. The truth of this quote astounds me, and the image of the left-wing coalition that almost came into existence early this year immediatly pops into my head. In case you were hiding under a rock, the NDP, Liberals, and Bloc Quebecois were considering banding together and voting down Harper’s budget in order to get in power. With this, Harper was forced to create a very Liberal budget – luckily for the Liberals, the Great Recession was just beginning and expansionary fiscal policy (which includes increased spending) had to be used anyway. The fact that Harper was forced to suspend Parliament in order to stay in power is embarressing. To me Harper was not trying to save his job but rather he was trying to save Canada from the greedy opposition that happened to be using a financial crises as leverage. It’s bad enough that they were trying to get into power on illegitimate terms, but they also took away a lot of time and effort that could have been concentrated on the recession. Burke explains that if something as subjective as ‘misconduct’ is officially considered, a competent, strong, healthy government cannot occur. For every opinion, even if it’s the majority opinion, there will be several opposing opinions. In other words, there will always be someone who disagrees.

The “progressive society” is based around the idea that all opinions are equal, and that all ideologies have merit. A communist in Canada has equal respect from your typical Canadian to say, a conservative. Of course this doesn’t apply for all places and people – there are exceptions, but I believe the extreme emphasis on everyone having an equal say on everything is harmful to having an efficient, policy driven government. When politics is about how to word a policy proposal propertly so the opposition doesn’t get offended by it (God forbid!), there are going to be problems. Finally, this idea makes political apathy and moderation something that’s encouraged by our leaders and authorities rather than frowned upon – intentional or not. And people wonder why no one votes anymore! When politics becomes even less exciting because of an abstract idea of ideological equality, the public interest will keep hitting record lows. Recall the hardline anti-communism in the 80’s, and the fact that no nuclear war ever erupted when it easily could have. Liberals will call it a coincidence; I say it has everything to do with the fact that Americans wanted to preserve their country and culture against the Communist virus that took over eastern Europe. People got fired up, got interested, and got angry. Today Canada has zero fear of an attack. It’s sad that politics is only of interest when facing crises, but I suppose it comes with being so darned friendly with those adorable totalitarian regimes – after all, their views are equal to ours right?

After posting the original draft on my website as I normally do, I regular reader asked me this:

Just a thought: would a two-party system go a long way to rescuing our government from paralysis and mediocrity?

I answered with the following, and although I repeat many of the same points, I believe it's worth adding to those who haven't already read the post:

No, of course not. The point of this post was not to denounce several parties running for office, but to denounce several parties running the country, allowed to pull the political rope their particular way (for certain policies over others, no less).

I argue that our system, in which policies are slapped around by all sorts of ideological parties, is inefficient and harms the public’s interest, not to mention their money that goes with costly elections. I welcome as many parties to give a go at winning over the public’s support – a system where only two parties are considered isn’t necessarily the one I want to adopt. Can we not have perhaps three or four equally popular parties, one of which gets to govern for four years? Maybe it’s just too simple and straight forward, or maybe human nature defies logic – something that’s not uncommon.

[Cross-posted at The Right Coast]

Posted by Dane Richard on July 27, 2009 in Canadian Politics | Permalink


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The same problem exists south of the border where they only have a two party system. I think the real problem has to do with politicians unwilling to stand up for what they believe and for allowing the media to bully and intimidate anyone daring to make a non PC comment. Of course this climate of intimidation exists within the population when they do not like what they hear or see. Too often anyone taking an unpopular stand for certain agendised groups faces physical violence.

The truth no longer means anything if some do not like it, and civil debate where politicians defend their platform and policies is non existent. The last US election is a prime example.

Posted by: Alain | 2009-07-27 8:31:23 PM

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