More featuring Peter Hume»

by Peter Hume

Political parties are private organizations specifically intended to capture the public law-making power.

Parliament originated in about 1450, but organized political parties didn’t start to dominate parliamentary proceedings until about 1750, almost three hundred years later. So obviously it’s possible to have stable government without the parliament being dominated by political parties.

The first political parties were rather loose alliances of ideological fellow-travellers. However the development in the nineteenth century of formal party structures, discipline and factions changed the nature of parliamentary government. Now it meant that the most significant political decisions happen in private, by political parties doing backroom deals, rather than in the parliament. That’s why the public didn’t get to vote on whether Paul Keating gained or Kevin Rudd lost the prime ministership.

Modern Westminster-style democracy has degenerated into an elective dictatorship, in which the dominant party controls both the Executive (Cabinet and the Departments) and Legislature (Parliament). A member’s first loyalty is to the party, whose interest is taken to be a cipher for the people’s interest. The notion of the Parliament as a place where the critical issues are debated and decided for the public good is quite redundant.

The idea that a hung parliament is bad because stable government is good, depends on two assumptions that do not withstand critical scrutiny.

The first is that government presumptively stands for the greater good. But the ordinary legal rules against fraud, theft and killing do not apply to legislators in their legislative capacity. The many can err as badly as the few. There is nothing about a legal monopoly of force or majority opinion licensed to loot or kill, that makes it presumptively socially beneficial.

The second assumption is that government should be more efficient rather than less. But efficiency is only good if you’re producing goods. If someone is producing bads — like running the gas chambers — we don’t want them to be efficient; it’s better for them to be inefficient.

So it is with our Parliament. What a parcel of lying rogues! I wish that more of them were hung.