Philip Whiteley's Blog

August 11, 2010

Why is democracy out of fashion?

Filed under: Uncategorized — felipewh @ 4:24 am

The new Conservative-Liberal Democrat Government in the UK is proud of the independence of its new Office for Budget Responsibility, just as its Labour predecessor was of the independence of interest-rate setting by the Bank of England. The European Union, similarly, boasts a resolutely independent central bank, free from the constraints of those opportunistic politicians.

But where does it all stop? If all responsibilities get taken out of the hands of elected politicians, what would be the point of elections? Already, we cannot vote out the people who set interest rates, in Britain or mainland Europe; nor those who set most workplace or trading rules. The peripheral economies of Europe now have their tax policies dictated by the EU Council of Ministers under conditions set by the unelected European Central Bank. Ireland probably has less say over its economy now than when it was part of the British Empire, when at least it could return MPs to Westminster.

If the problem is short-term opportunism, then deal with the short-termism. You don’t have to whittle away democratic rights. For example, decisions on pensions, large-scale borrowing and long-term infrastructure projects could be made the responsibility of an elected chamber. Members would sit for 10 years; there would be no party whips and they would not be eligible for re-election. Their duty to consider the long-term stewardship of the economy would be constitutionally enshrined. This could be at national or European level. Just an idea – but democracy’s not cool at the moment, I fear.

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