28 November 2011

How not to hold a referendum

The inhabitants of a small rural township in Austria had to vote on the proposed merger of three neighbouring councils. The amalgamation was intended to cut down administrative costs. The result of the referendum was a resounding no as 90.3 % of the voters rejected the proposal. In our view this was a flawed proposal as the voters never had to make an honest choice that was impacting their own pocket book. Expenses for local administrative units are mostly paid for by central government funds. Only if the voters would have to bear the full cost of administering their local government unit would they have been in a position to assess the full consequences of their vote.

27 November 2011

65 % believe politicians can be bought

Says an opinion survey in Austria. That does not necessarily mean that this view can be found in all other countries (though in some the percentage may be even higher) but we would venture a guess that the results would not be more flattering in most countries. The regulation of party and campaign financing as well as the end to state subsidies and hidden financing (such as advertising in party-controlled media outlets) is essential to restore faith in elected representatives. The lack of direct democracy is responsible for the fact that the electorate seems to be resigned to this lamentable state of affairs. Only direct control of political decision making would make it possible to enforce adherence to stricter moral standards in political life.

25 November 2011

How to control the influence of money in politics

Reports that property developers have been major donors to the Conservative Party in the UK highlight the role that money plays in politics. Some rich individuals blatantly spend their wealth on getting elected to public office (Schwarzenegger, Bloom berg, Corzine in the USA come to mind) while at the other end of the spectrum the hapless citizen-taxpayer is powerless to stop the gravy-train of public subsidy to the establishment parties in countries like Germany and Austria. Dirdem would at least give the voter a say in the regulation of party finances. In addition the requirement (or mere threat) to hold a referendum on any issue will make the outcome of any political decision subject to the approval of the electorate thus providing a safety-valve against behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.

10 November 2011

How many signatures for referendum?

Occasionally critics of Direct Democracy remark that proposals to launch a binding referendum do not get the support of sufficiently large numbers of signatories. But it has to be considered that collecting them is an uphill task and the launch of such a Campaign often has to be at the expense (in money and time) of volunteers. The trigger point to make a referendum proposal binding must therefore set at a point that is not too low (in order to avoid nuisance proposals) and not too high (so as not to make most or all proposals ineffective).

8 November 2011

Danger of Ad-hoc Referendums

The problem with ad-hoc referendums is that they are being abused by both parties involved: The proponents (usually the party in power) wants to get additional legitimacy for a decision it has already taken (or wants to wash its hands of a difficult decision). The voters may use the opportunity to cast a vote on the government of the day and not really address the issue at stake. As the only way a referendum can exist in most 'democracies' is by government decree there is a permanent question mark about the whole exercise. These deficiencies are often used by opponents of direct democracy to paint the instrument of referendum in an unattractive light.

7 November 2011

Too many laws - not only in Greece

One of the problems that has been highlighted by the 'Greek tragedy' is the tremendous number of new laws that has been created in that country over the past decades.

But Greece is not alone. All modern 'Democracies' are spewing out page after page of (often poorly worded) laws that have been pushed through by the party machine that happens to hold power at the moment.

While the introduction of Direct Democracy would not mean that no new laws will be passed, it provides at least the hope that the threat of closer scrutiny in a referendum will be a warning sign to the Governments as well as Parliaments and help to make sure that only legislation that is really required will be put on the statute book.

Carbon Trade - Bureaucrats create paradise for scamsters

Apart from the fact that the carbon trade scheme has been decreed without any democratic participation by the citizens we have always argued that the only people to be enriched will be traders, speculators and - above all - the fraudsters. Much - if not most - of the crime in the world is caused by ill-conceived legislation (prostitution, drugs, excessive taxes on alcohol and tobacco to name the most obvious cases) and the agriculture sector so far has been the most high-profile sector involving fraudulent activity in the 'legal' business sector. Before long this will be surpassed by trading in carbon 'credits'. Who is going to monitor, measure and account for the activity in something as ephemeral as air and gas? Certainly not sleepy bureaucrats and their minions in the - already overstretched - police and judiciary. But the political class as always operates according to the well-proven rule of the bureaucrat: why make it simple if it can be complicated (and expensive)? The obvious way to reduce consumption of fossil fuel is cheap and effective: let the rising demand cause price to rise and if necessary increase taxes on fossil fuels. Another observation: the Media are also complicit in the backroom dealing that gives Lobbies that profit from the Carbon Trade as the industry representatives are giving excessive space to propagate their self-serving mantras.