No lurching here, please
Posted by Mad Mitch on UTC 2016-11-01 09:17.
After recent wins by the party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in a number of state elections in Germany we read dramatic pieces about a 'lurch to the right'. Similar headlines are generated by election results throughout Europe: France (2012), Norway (2013), Sweden (2014), Denmark (2015), Switzerland (2015). Sometimes the 'lurch' is to the right, sometimes to the left.
Whatever. Nothing ever really changes. The alphabet soup of proportional voting systems absorbs lurches, that is in its nature. There has to be a huge – immense – lurch before before anything really changes. For example, after the fragility of the Weimar Republic, the post-war German electoral system was designed never to allow any major political change at all to take place – you can have as many lurches as you like, but that pyramid will rest unmoved on its ample bottom.
Switzerland supplied us with a good example of a 'lurch to the right' in the National Parliamentary elections a year ago, which raised hopes or fears for the future in accordance with your politics. What has happened? Nothing. There has been no perceptible change in national politics at all.
A few days ago an opinion piece appeared in the traditionally liberal (≈centre-right) Swiss newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, which sighed in despair at the lack of change in the past year:
It would be nice to see the liberal forces in Parliament opposing the mainstream more strongly and developing liberal ideas, even when, at the moment, there is no majority to implement them. Sooner or later, a centre-right Parliament, which up to now has distinguished itself by its love of spending and its statism, will lose its credibility.
But that is what proportionally represented, coalition-based parliaments always do: they coalesce around the fly-paper in the middle of the room. The fiery, hotheaded newcomers integrate into the existing collegial ranks and the esprit de corps so feared by Thomas Jefferson soon kicks in. After only a year you look from pig to man and man to pig and there really is no perceptible difference.
UKIP: No to the EU, yes to European-style government
We read that UKIP, along with all the other minority parties in Britain, wants to drink the European poison of proportional representation. At the last General Election in the UK four million votes gained the party one seat out of 650. Four million wasted votes, they tell us. But if it had brought them, say, 30 seats under a proportional system, what difference would it have made apart from employing 30 Kippers? None.
We could just pretend that the four million votes had been somehow not wasted, when, in fact, they clearly would have been: those four million votes would still have achieved nothing. Thirty Kippers would be kept busy in their constituencies sorting out their constituents' grumbles with the welfare state, acting, in effect, as lackeys in the service of the administrative machine they so detest. With proportional representation in the United Kingdom, UKIP and all the other minority parties will just become employers of Members of Parliament. Nothing will change.
It is also questionable whether UKIP would still get four million votes under a PR system when so many other small parties would have become viable competitors. UKIP might end up with ten members sharing the benches with a couple of Monster Raving Loonies and an assortment of fundamentalist knuckle-draggers.
What have all those years of UKIP members sitting in the European Parliament changed? Nothing. Remember the 'lurch to UKIP' in the EU Parliament elections in 2014? What happened? Nothing.
In developed countries the extension of the modern state into all aspects of its citizens' lives means that there is really nothing fundamental left to be changed. The extended state is run by political and administrative functionaries – it has to be, because it has extended beyond politics. All the great spending departments are simply administrative swamps. The only way to change things and make politics meaningful again is to reduce the reach of the state dramatically.
The state has also extended beyond its own boundaries. A highlight of Brexit so far has been the gradual realisation of how broad and how deep the interlinking of modern states has become: the functionaries of the world rule, OK? What is this sovereignty thing, anyway? Such a massive lurch, in the current political system of consensus and self-interest, is never going to happen. The 'Great Repeal Act' is really just the 'Great Perpetuation Act'. Nothing at all will change.
Unless, of course, you are foolish enough to hold a referendum. The political class in that referendum paradise, Switzerland, is currently desperately trying to cope with the political fall out of a number of referendum decisions they cannot bring themselves to implement. How can functionaries work with a direct democracy that can overnight, seemingly on a whim, take a hammer to all their beautiful administrative constructs? Just as the UK government is still struggling with the outcome of the Brexit referendum, having learned the dangers of this referendum gambit the hard way. They won't do that again.
If a lurch doesn't involve tumbrils, it's not a lurch.