Are you a social Darwinist?
Yesterday someone here linked to a piece in the Economist: There was a lawyer, an engineer and a politician...
I quite liked this comment
by Stephen Morris (April 17, 2009 13:05):
Stephen Morris wrote:
This article dealing with selection bias in politics makes no mention whatever of the most common selection bias: "adverse selection" which is common to all systems of (so-called) "representative" government.
The problem of adverse selection is described by Nobel laureate James Buchanan as follows (from "The Reason of Rules"):
"[S]uppose that a monopoly right is to be auctioned; whom will we predict to be the highest bidder? Surely we can presume that the person who intends to exploit the monopoly power most fully, the one for whom the expected profit is highest, will be among the highest bidders for the franchise. In the same way, positions of political power will tend to attract those persons who place higher values on the possession of such power. These persons will tend to be the highest bidders in the allocation of political offices. . . . Is there any presumption that political rent seeking will ultimately allocate offices to the 'best' persons? Is there not the overwhelming presumption that offices will be secured by those who value power most highly and who seek to use such power of discretion in the furtherance of their personal projects, be these moral or otherwise? Genuine public-interest motivations may exist and may even be widespread, but are these motivations sufficiently passionate to stimulate people to fight for political office, to compete with those whose passions include the desire to wield power over others?"
One remedy for adverse selection (although not one promoted by Buchanan) is to attack the root cause - the granting of a monopoly franchise - through the use of Democracy.
Democracy overcomes the problem of adverse selection by separating the monopoly on power (which is retained by the People) from the job of administration. Under a system of democratic government - such as practiced in Switzerland, for example - any attempt to exploit a monopoly on power to pursue "personal projects" quickly comes up against the referendum process. Even if a party or a coalition seized outright control of the Legislature and the Cabinet, it could not exploit the monopoly franchise. The People would simply overrule any exploitative actions through referendums which are held every three months.
With no opportunities for exploiting monopoly power, Swiss politics tends to be a humdrum affair compared with other countries . . . . concerned more with day-to-day issues of efficient administration than with the grandstanding and posturing that are typical in other countries.
Most Swiss parliamentarians are part-time (genuine public service without a monopoly on power does not make for an attractive full-time career) and the Swiss Federal cabinet comprises members from the four or five largest parties - from both ends of the political spectrum - who work in permanent coalition.
Although the political parties may disagree on many issues, their representatives in Cabinet get on with the business of quiet administration on a collegial basis. It is not unusual to have ministers representing policies that are actually contrary to the views of their own party!
The absence of a monopoly on power reduces the incentive to engage in the partisan politics which characterises monopolistic systems. Thus - paradoxically - the democratic mechanism helps to ensure that the Legislature and Executive operate as representative bodies . . . . . as they are supposed to do (in theory) in purely "representative" systems.
Of course, some people might not like this. Some people (professional politicians, lobbyists, aspiring megalomaniacs perhaps) may prefer "representative" government precisely because it does offer a monopoly on power . . . and the prospect of pursuing "personal projects" which can be forced upon the People.
It is notable, however, that in those jurisdictions where the People have been given the opportunity to choose (notably Switzerland, and to a lesser extent in some states of the US), they have chosen Democracy. And in those jurisdictions where the People enjoy Democracy, they have not used their democratic rights to abolish it . . . . even though it is a straightforward process to call a referendum to do so.
Moreover, there is no self-evident principle by which the opinions of anti-democrats may be privileged over those of the People, who appear to support Democracy when given the opportunity to choose it.