If democracy works at all, and MMP fails, we can just kick the bums out, and go back to our charming, ineffective, tradition.
The core argument underlying my support for the proportional representation proposal being put to the vote on October 10th – which will, with luck, ‘drag Ontario politics out of the 17th century and into the 21st – is laid out in the Ultra Vires here. Questionable title aside, included here are the sources and further discussion promise in the authornote.
To an accusation of ‘intellectual dishonesty’ received for this criticism of Urqhuart, which now includes a link to the original article, where, I maintain, he relies more on name-calling and misrepresentation than argument:
Besides those like Ian Urquhart who seem to get starry-eyed over the charms of any tradition, no matter how ineffective the institution…
I depend on statements such as these:
The system can lead to permanent minority governments and a proliferation of fringe parties;
which, in the middle a news article (describing the new proposal as “radical”) seems to fall short of reasonable standards of journalism, or argument, for that matter, especially when, as I stated in the piece, the proliferation of minority parliaments under proportional systems is debatable. Perhaps more blame might be laid on the Star’s editorial board than on Mr. Urquhart, who has remained silent on the issue for at least four months, especially since I view Mr. Urquhart’s opinions as generally insightful and well-informed.
To the core of the argument: some might disagree on the nature of democracy itself, but that’s worthy of a much longer article. However, even given support for the idea that debate, deliberation and consideration are as much, if not more important to ‘democracy’ than plurality voting systems unfortunately doesn’t dispose of the advisability of switching systems. Here, repeated, are the two strongest arguments against the October 10th proposal:
First, because the system will use party lists, MPPs may be less accountable to the ‘local constituency associations’ which this coalition somehow believes holds sway now. And because of the (debatably) higher likelihood of minority governments under the new system, they rail against the power that might be held by small parties, while discounting the unrepresentative sway held in the current system by large parties.
The real weakness of the proposal – the difficulty of almost any proportional representation system – is in choosing who gets the seats not allotted by local election. Clearly, opposition to party lists is about more than just accountability. While supporting ‘principled leadership’ over ‘administrative efficiency’, Lorne argues that party lists will only exacerbate the as-yet unquenched tendencies of parties toward corruption, nepotism, and personality-cultism, fed by a power-seeking motive which will only become more lucrative under the new proposal. Instead of inspired voices willing to spark public debate, lists will quickly fill with Machiavellian autocrats and a coterie of clashing sycophants. Underlying a belief in this process is a clearly identifiable incentive: with guaranteed access to at least partial power, politics inside every party will start to become personality-based, with those close to the core winning the spoils: almost-guaranteed seats.
This guy is likewise assured that party lists will toss Ontario head-first into an endless night of the long knives.
Yet with moderate regulation and moderate party discipline, the party list system could inspire the grassroots to seek out principled, eloquent representatives of the issues important to their party, instead of aligning around local level incumbents who are almost impossible to replace. If parties realize the potential of the list system, then conventions could become more like leadership conventions with many winners, instead of half-rigged races where the top dog also gets to choose, according to their personal motives, which contendors come in second, and third and fourth…
Perhaps Lorne’s experience with the Liberal party leads him to see dark days if the proposal wins, where I see real possibility of a passionate, informed public discourse. The NDP, despite attempts from the centre to manipulate results, has been surprsingly democratic of late.
Ultimately, the difference is, I’m willing to take the risk for the sake of democracy, and for the possibility of ending the ‘politics of fear.’
More on Arrow’s Democracy Paradox here, and on deliberative democrats here. An exciting proposal for more democratic politics, tangent to the electoral system proper was proposed in Fiskin and Acherman’s Deliberation Day.