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Links I found interesting for 23-05-2012


( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 23rd, 2012 10:01 am (UTC)
I don't know who Jason is, but he's very incisive.
May. 23rd, 2012 12:12 pm (UTC)
He's an old friend of mine with a beard. Though he was cleanshaven when I first knew him.
May. 23rd, 2012 12:31 pm (UTC)
I take a lot of his points, but I'm not sure what he's getting at with No. 8: "If House of Lords reform is going to create just another house of party hacks, what’s the point?"

If this is an argument against introducing democracy into the House of Lords, it's no less an argument against retaining it in the House of Commons. In fact, it seems to mean "You can't trust people to choose their own rulers." It's a point of view, and maybe a defensible one, but I wish people would just come out and say it. (Also, the House of Lords is already stuffed with party hacks.)
May. 23rd, 2012 01:55 pm (UTC)
Au contraire. Most countries with bicameral legislatures select the upper house on a completely different basis from the lower. Jason is writing from the Irish experience where the Senate is a relatively powerless body which functions largely as a resting place for party hacks unable to sit in the lower house, and vicariously wishing that the British reform should not go the same route.

He is right. I have written at length about the problems of an elected Lords here, with Irish comparisons here and comments on a recent publication here (also a few more links here).

Even if you for some reason support a directly elected upper chamber, the government's current proposals for non-renewable 15-year terms and retaining a dozen bishops are surely rather poor!
May. 23rd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure which bit of what I said you disagree with, but if Jason is simply arguing that the upper house ought to be selected on a different basis than the lower, I have no argument with him. That didn't seem to me to be his implication.

The issue for me is primarily one of democratic legitimacy. As for what people do elsewhere - well the world is a big place, and I'm sure you know more about its various systems of government than I do, but most of the upper houses I can think of are either directly elected, or else at least elected by a body which is itself elected (of course less satisfactory from my point of view, but a gesture in the right direction!). I can't, off the top of my head, think of any upper house (at least in a country that's generally regarded as a democracy), that has no democratic component at all, except for the UK and its Canadian clone.

The Seanad is a mess, constitutionally speaking, but it can't really be held up as an example of the perils having direct elections - since it doesn't! (Oh, unless you went to Trinity... nice touch.) In fact, it strikes me as much closer to the current House of Lords in spirit, which even has its own vocational panel in the form of the CofE bishops, than to the US senate or the German Bundesrat (to pick a couple of institutions that are very different from each other, but both democratic and functional, and in nations that aren't generally regarded as basket cases). And if the Seanad is full of political hacks because of the power of patronage and the law of buggins' turn - well, so is the House of Lords. And worse, because (like the honours system in general) the prospect of a peerage is regularly employed by Prime Ministers to induce MPs to vote against their consciences and the interests of their electors, the House of Lords even compromises the democratic functioning of the Commons.

As for what I'd like - well, I'm not wedded to the current proposals, and if they'd be an improvement the bar isn't set very high, let's face it. Ideally, I'd like a system more like the German one, and for the UK (if it is to survive at all) to be considerably more federal, with the upper house elected on a regional basis. This would have the advantages of a) addressing the democratic deficit in England, vis-a-vis the other parts of the UK, and b) counteracting the Londocentricity of the body politic and the economy. That way, it would not only introduce an element of democracy (which I'm old-fashioned enough to think a good thing in itself), but it would also do something to mitigate two the other great constitutional and social scandals of our day.
May. 23rd, 2012 06:18 pm (UTC)
I don't have a problem with a federally-based upper house for states that actually are federal, like the USA and Germany. But the UK is not a federal state.

So I have to ask why an upper house is needed at all in a non-federal state? It seems to me that those who advocate direct elections generally dodge that question, and those who like the idea of a revising chamber are unable to demonstrate that elections will deliver people who are good at revising legislation.

Of course the UK is too London-centric, but it's not obvious to me that electing a few dozen people from the provinces on fifteen-year non-renewable terms will help redress that situation...
May. 23rd, 2012 06:47 pm (UTC)
I don't have a problem with a federally-based upper house for states that actually are federal, like the USA and Germany. But the UK is not a federal state.

That's why I put the world "ideally" at the start of my sentence. I don't think it's impossible that the UK could become a federal state, if there were any political will behind it, but I'm aware that there isn't. More likely we'll limp on with a devolved (except for England) UK for a little while yet, before terminal break-up. And, this being the UK, "a little while" may well mean 100 years or so.

Again, I used the word "mitigate" rather than "solve" advisedly, regarding the extent to which a federally elected upper house could reverse the strong tide of Londoncentricity within the UK political/cultural/financial establishment. It'd take a good deal more than that to solve the problem, but it could change the weather, and perhaps help stem the gushing flow of tribute that the Capitol exacts yearly from the Districts. (Personally I think "the provinces" is a phrase best avoided, tinctured as it so often is with a degree of contempt.)

I said nothing about 15-year non-renewable terms. Seven-year renewable terms would be preferable, in my opinion, if we were to go down the broad route of the current proposals - to which, I as I said, I am far from wedded..
May. 23rd, 2012 02:42 pm (UTC)
Great and scary article about the poor translators :(
May. 23rd, 2012 05:28 pm (UTC)
I know, right? I wonder if something can be done.

And to think that 20 years ago we might never have heard about this, and certainly not in so timely and public a way.
May. 23rd, 2012 07:58 pm (UTC)
The SFWA have lawyers for that sort of thing. No help for this lot, unfortunately, although they could maybe form their own union...
May. 23rd, 2012 03:24 pm (UTC)
It's not clear how far European unity runs when it comes to the question of the fiscal transfer union that's required to make the Euro work; the price of Germany exporting to the rest of Europe is that the Euros _must_ be recycled somehow to other countries. This was done for a while through expanding mortgages, but the wheels have finally fallen off that mechanism. The options are large permanent transfer payments within the EU or permanent poverty and bankruptcy in the periphery.

(Once I finally understood that it was a balance-of-payments issue, rather than the ridiculous "profligacy" or "speculators" narratives, it became a lot clearer)
s g
May. 25th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Spot on.

Same balance works for the US & Europe v east Asia & China.

Withdrawal of Germany from € could work wonders for the idiots who took on too much debt.
s g
May. 25th, 2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
+ that article pretends Merkel is in charge of the decision - German constitutional court made it clear last summer that a referendum is needed.
May. 23rd, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
I am literally on tenterhooks waiting for Wife In Space's Deadly Assassin review.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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