Friday, 3 June 2011

A resident of Yorkshire vs a scorpion

There is a debate proceeding twixt Richard North, EU Referendum, and The Purple Scorpion on the objectives of "Referism".

The Purple Scorpion is in favour of small government, greater accountability etc; so if all matters other than defence, foreign affairs, immigration (if I have missed anything, readers will no doubt be quick to comment) were devolved to local authorities, the national budget and the details therein would be easier to understand. In other words the question in respect of any national budget would be whether we agreed with the amount of money to be spent on our armed forces, how much would be spent on maintaining our relationship with other countries and how many foreigners we would be prepared to allow into our country - questions which I believe is all that Joe Public is interested in, on a national scale. With all 'internal' matters devolved to local authorities it would then be the choice of those people what health, education, law & order policies were implemented.

With the right of the public to refuse to sanction either national or internal policies - and the cost therein - it may take a few referenda to drive home the message to politicians, both national and local, the idea that the sooner they actively engage with their electorate the better. Even the thickest of politicians will soon learn that the quicker and more often they do actually listen to those that fund their lifestyle and should therefore reflect those opinions, the less will be the need for referenda.

Aha, I hear the cries: what about banks? What about banks? Local people are interested in: is their money safe; is it there on demand 'en masse' ; what can they borrow, etc. So perhaps banks need to split their domestic and international business? How that international business is financed is the banks problem, it is not the problem of local investors and customers. With such a split of business, either banks would flourish locally, or they would not - the choice is theirs.

What's not to like about "Referism"?

Just a few thoughts.........................


Edward Spalton said...

I am just reading Alexander Hamilton's Federalist papers. He was writing to persuade the citizens of New York state to sign up to the new US constitution. There were people in newly independent America who thought that the individual states could go their own ways and others who thought they might form three or more separate countries between them.

Hamilton urges Union upon them to replace the looser arrangement which grew out of the war of independence. He cites the obvious advantages to the people of Britain being one country and so better able to defend their interests.

He also makes a point that local democracy can become exceedingly tyrannical and overbearing. Restrained within a larger framework, "republican" as opposed to "democratic" institutions would moderate this tendency to tyranny. He assumed, of course, that political parties would be composed of people with real interests in the real economy, not just groups living off the taxpayer.

To draw a parallel - a lynch mob is a democratic institution which proceeds by majority. A jury is a "republican" institution which requires unanimity and is restrained by superior authority.

One of Hamilton's near contemporaries (and I can't remember which) cautioned his countrymen against "too democratical" a constitution "Else we will but have exchanged King George for King Numbers".

WitteringsfromWitney said...

Edward, You seem to be putting forward an argument for big government - or have I misunderstood you?

Edward Spalton said...

Indeed you have misunderstood me!

Hamilton, of course, would have had no idea of a federal government which ate up over half the product of a nation.

What he was after were "checks and balances" against arbitrary power at all levels and the power of am arrogant majority can be just as arbitrary as any King or Emperor. ("King Numbers")

The US Constitution was a very good attempt at this but much has been eroded by the apparently unstoppable advance of federal and presidential power.

One point of step change was, of course, the War between the States or Civil War (according to which side your great great grandpappy was on). Shelby Foote, a very insightful Southern historian said "Before the war people said "The United States are". After the war they said "The United States is" and you could say that's what it was all about".

As with us, the other great step changes were the two world wars, leading to vast increases in the powers of central government to interfere with anything and everything. Jonah Goldberg's "Liberal Fascism" is particularly good on the "war socialism" of the government of Woodrow Wilson.

Sean O'Hare said...

As a firm believer in small government I agree that central government should restrict itself to defence and foreign affairs, although the latter should be pulled back to diplomats only, i.e. leave promoting Britain to commercial enterprise.

I'm not so happy with devolving everything else down to local authorities as the clowns in town halls and council offices are, in my opinion, as bad if not worse, than the clowns in Westminster and Whitehall. It would be much better if much, if not all, such were devolved down to the individual.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

ES: Ah.........

SO'H: Re your second paragraph: nowt to fear with this idea, the electorate will still control the politicos by referenda. They will eventually learn that obedience to the electorate will mean less referenda - I repeat what's not to like?

Whilst total devolution of power to the individual is a nice idea, it would never work in practise. For example, rubbish needs collecting and that requires someone to oversee it. What is important is that it is done as the majority wish.

Sean O'Hare said...


Total devolution does not imply the complete absence of collective collaboration (co-operatives). If there were no publicly run landfill sites then commercial sites would be happy to contract with co-operatives. Likewise co-operatives could contract with a a van man to take bins to commercial site(s). No local government necessary and free market keeps costs down.

subrosa said...

Free market keeps costs down?

Not in the home care industry Sean. Costs have surged in the past three years.

Anonymous said...

Why not tie major taxation revenue to specific funding, viz Road tax and petrol duty to be spent on road infrastructure + some other specified transport etc. Once major amounts of tax money is tied by law to where and how it was raised, the scope of misallocation and waste is reduced.

TomTom said...

Road tax and petrol duty to be spent on road infrastructure

Now was it Winston Churchill or Neville Chamberlain as Chancellor that raided the Road Fund for general spending ? The Treasury hates hypothecated taxes because they commit to spending. I am confident my £215 Road Tax paid last week will NOT be spent on roads in the UK....probably in Pakistan

WitteringsfromWitney said...

SO'H: Fair comment, but then as SR states.........?

DP111: Nice idea and may well just work....... however see TTs comment. Would you trust a politician not to 'cook the books'?