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Posts Tagged ‘Democracy’

Grassroots political power

February 18, 2010 3 comments

In a free society, the power of government should come from the people. That power should flow up from individuals to their community and then up to higher levels of government.

In reality, power is being increasingly centralised in Canberra, and that power and responsibility then trickles down to the state governments and then the local councils. At the bottom, community groups are effectively powerless.

In the “community-up” approach, each person has a real link to political power and meaningful access to their representatives. In the “Canberra-down” approach, ordinary people are isolated from the political system and are reduced to one vote out of 14 million every three years to influence the heart of power. Not only does the “Canberra-down” approach make people disconnected to democracy and disillusioned about politics, but it also leads to less diversity, less political innovation, less incentive to be efficient and effective and less choice.

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The problem with democracy

February 3, 2010 Comments off

I just finished reading Bryan Caplan’s excellent book “The Myth of the Rational Voter”. It is an extremely valuable book for anybody who really wants to understand what drives democratic government.

Public choice theorists have long known about “rational ignorance” where people recognise their vote is almost worthless and so they don’t bother informing themselves about politics, political philosophy or public policy. The consequence is that most people can’t explain how the political system works, who their politicians are, the details of most policies, or the arguments underlying public policy debate.

Caplan’s addition to the literature is to say that people aren’t simply “rationally ignorant” but that they’re “rationally irrational”. Ignorance should lead people to making “random errors” where they are equally likely to make mistakes in either direction. But Caplan shows what political watchers already know… voters often make “systemic errors”, where many people are wrong in the same direction. The problem isn’t that people don’t know enough (ignorance), but that what they “know” simply isn’t right.

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