Sunday, September 28, 2008

System way beyond the point of diminishing returns

Election time is probably not the best time to raise the issue, but the US federal electoral system is not only failing America but it has negative impacts the rest of the world too. The problem, in the 21st century, is that the presidential/congressional system is simply too cumbersome in a fast paced world.

This is becomes patently obvious when the US election cycle and economic crisis have collided, bringing the US economy, among others, to the brink. Washington has been unable to address the rapidly unfolding events in a timely manner and voters have only a semblance of democracy to respond with.

Fair enough we non-US democracies have had some scary moments from our own various elected leader, particularly attempts to hand the lot over to the corporations, but there have been sufficient restraints to save us.

In part those restraints include reactive parliamentary systems, where given the right triggers even party discipline will break down to curb a governments excesses. Given sufficient impetus that extends as far as forcing a government and a parliament back to the people. It doesn’t happen often, but it is an ever present option.

But then I expect the problem goes deeper than a cumbersome electoral system, designed to dampen reaction. Roosevelt’s ‘New Deal’ was probably as close as the US has ever come to a welfare system, and FDR is still remarked on as some kind of communist. The US have long been under the influence of a pure market driven economy.

Even when the Bush admin had their greatest influence on Australia, under the unremarkable John Howard’s governments, there was only ever going to be a limited diminution of this countries mixed economic approach, and the worst excesses of the period are now being modified or simply withering on the vine.

Despite accusations over the years, I don’t consider myself particularly leftish, and I know those on the left don’t consider me a fellow traveler. I do detest outright conservatism, traditional and modern. Our economic and social responses should be ‘pragmatic’, that is addressing the current issues to ensure the very best outcomes.

Ok, there is no corporate profit, not political trade off in that kind of approach; which makes it, to my mind, desperately urgent to adopt it. I believe we non-US democracies are streets ahead in this game, but I wouldn’t be on my own in believing we are far from the ideal situation.

The US electoral system is failing to deliver for the people, it is now way beyond the point of diminishing returns. Patches aren’t going to do the job now, it needs major surgery. I wonder if the innovative nation is really up to thechallenge.


lindsaylobe said...

Redheaded Wisdom posting on splitting up the USA into regions and reducing subsequent election time was an ideal start towards a less complicated and costly system.

I think the cost factor has been the principal driver to ensure politics in the USA is dominated by just the 2 main parties.

The huge cost (one billion dollars for a serious presidential candidate) provides a stumbling block to many well qualified aspirants or to minor parties gaining office.

The strange alliances representative of those massive campaign contributors provides a cocktail of conflicting ideologies, with the Piper more often than not having its way.

Any significant change to limit cost but increase opportunity requires a shift in ideology to a more socialized Electoral Commission.

Best wishes

D.K. Raed said...

Lindsay, that regional voting idea would only be a good start. However, the real deal would be to abolish the electoral college altogether. Fat chance of that, given our constitution amendment system. Of course, I am no expert .. in some long-ago Poli-Sci class I wrote a paper predicting the electoral college would be abolished the first time whoever won the popular vote didn't win the electoral vote in our modern times. HAH! AND DOUBLE HAH! What a young idiot I was. The system is entrenched and the very people it gives inordinate power to will NEVER agree to give it up (I would love to eat those words someday).

ps, J'Accuse, Cart, you LEFTIE! Fellow Traveler or not, to think as far outside the box as you do keeps you well away from the center or right-leaners.

Cart said...

Lindsay, if I were Red I would quit while I was ahead... I agree that a major restructure is needed, whether geographic or system. It will happen.
But me right? I would more more claim that ground than claim the left. Even if I have been called a pinko and a fascist, both in the same sentence on one memorable occasion.
Really, the outcomes are the only measure, not the ideologies.

D.K. Raed said...

sorry Cart ... we have so few thinking righties here, it's hard to imagine. the only ones that come to mind are the neo-cons & as they are using their great thinking power for pure evil, I don't think you fit in there. But just to set the record straight, I'd never call you a pinko OR a fascist and can barely conceive how one person could fit both descriptions.

Cart said...

DK, no worries, I grew up in a country where political leanings weren't life and death.
The pinko - fascist is easy :) That was the day, many years ago, I had blocked the John Birch Society using my state branch of the Liberal Party as a recruiting ground.
Well, they thought I did and that was the attack. In fact I simply one a battle and the far right prevailed eventually.
But think about it - the far left and the far right are exactly the same animal. Your current economic issue has libertarian/anarchic underpinnings.

abi said...

There's a lot of truth in your post, Cart. And to answer your last question - No, we're not up to the challenge. As DK says, we're not even up to abolishing the hopelessly outdated Electoral College.

I'm afraid America is going to have to learn the hard way. The very hard way.

Cart said...

Abi, I love playing with electoral systems. Can I come and play with yours?