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Dave Grimmond says we should not only choose parties and people at election time, but vote on our policy preferences as well

Dave Grimmond says we should not only choose parties and people at election time, but vote on our policy preferences as well
Should we have an option to respond to specific policies offered?

By Dave Grimmond*

"It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried." - Sir Winston Churchill

There is no question that open economy democracies have been associated with strong wealth gains for their citizens.

Though in the spirit of Sir Winston Churchill’s quote it can seem a bit of a mystery how democracies actually deliver better outcomes.

Democratic processes, with their committees, political intrigue, and fluid coalitions, are not the approaches that one is likely to find recommended in management texts.

Democracies appear to somehow deliver better outcomes for its citizens despite their governments. 

Ultimately it seems that the better outcomes of democracy does not reflect their superior machinations of government, but simply that they represent a closer alignment of interests between the government and the citizenry than other forms of government.

Getting into power and staying in power in a democracy requires at least some recognition of the interests of voters.

The net result is that, although far from perfect, democracies are more likely to produce laws and government actions that represent the interests of a wider proportion of the population than autocracies that only need to meet the interests of a narrow clique. 

One of the luxuries of living in a stable democracy like New Zealand is that it allows politics to be dominated by a sense of complacency; we know that the life of individual governments is limited and that its replacement will not really make a big difference.

Every now and then a new government will introduce a policy that will make some difference to us as individuals, but more often our attitude to a government probably more reflects their image rather than any substantial impact that they have on our lives.

Despite this general level of comfort with New Zealand’s political system there is always room for improvement.

My general concern is that the quality of policies should be as high as possible. By this I mean that policies introduced are most effective in delivering the intended outcomes and that unintended side-effects are minimised. I think it is totally appropriate that policies reflect the philosophy of the elected government and the interests of the electorate, but it annoys me when policy does not look like it will be as effective as it could be, or delivers outcomes in a costly way. 

In this regard one of my key concerns about policy development is the lack of technical support available to opposition parties.

It is the nature of change that the largest swings in policy occur with a change of government. Oppositions are less bound with the existing policy suite and are focussed on the failings of the current framework. Yet the opposition has limited access to the nation’s key policy advice resource, the civil service. 

Although much of the civil service’s activity is involved with implementing government policy, they also have an important role in providing the government with advice on the suitable design of policy.

The question that I pose is; should some more public resource be made available to provide policy advice to potential members of future governments? 

The nature of the election process is that political parties are increasingly expected to be explicit about the policies they intend to implement (or advocate if a minority party to a coalition). Understandably the media, opposition and the electorate scrutinise both the detail of the promises and, if elected, the extent that the government delivers on their election promises. The Mixed Member Proportional electoral system that New Zealand has encourages the election of a parliament and government that reflects the demographic mix of the electorate.

The members of parliament that we elect are our representatives who we delegate responsibility to represent our interest in government processes. They have responsibility, but they do not necessarily have the expertise to design and run all the facets of government. The details of government are undertaken by the experts in the civil service, under the guidance and oversight of the elected representatives. 

That all works well once a government is elected (at least in theory, the civil service cannot be absolved from contributing to poor policies from time to time) but it is more difficult to fix poorly designed policy if it has been set in stone by the election process.

Giving opposition parties greater access to policy advice would hopefully lift the standard of policies that can be scrutinised through the election process.

Another associated weakness with our electoral process comes from the bundling of party election promises.

When one votes for a political party one is essentially supporting all of their policies with an equal weighting or, perhaps more accurately, with the same weighting of the political party. A number of years ago the Labour Party introduced the innovation of a pledge card, representing the seven policy planks that the party pledged to deliver if elected. Part of me applauded the explicit commitment that the pledge card represented, but there was also the reservation that people voting Labour were unlikely to universally support all seven of the pledged policies. Essentially, even if you generally support a political party, you are always accepting a non-negotiable bundle of policies, which is likely to include some policies that you really do not support.

Now some policy compromise is unavoidable; if you want the government to spend more in a certain area, then this requires the government to either spend less elsewhere or to tax more (if not today at least at some point in the future). But sometimes policies are adopted not because there is an intrinsic strong demand for the policy, but because of mistakes in second guessing what their supporters really want. There is considerable evidence that even well intentioned representatives can make mistakes in assessing what their constituency truly values. 

Political parties use polling to minimise these types of mistakes. But maybe more could be made of the electoral process.

A number of years ago Gareth Morgan made a suggestion which I think has considerable merit. In addition to binding electorate and party votes, voters should be also given the opportunity to cast non-binding (ie popularity) votes on preferences on different party policies. Thus one might give your party vote to Party X, and therefore might also support the majority of their policies, but the policy vote facility would give you the ability to make it clear that you prefer Party Y’s education policies and Party Z’s environmental policies.

Presuming that Party X obtains sufficient votes to form (lead) the new government, this policy vote information, while not binding the new government to do anything, would provide them with extra information about the popularity of its policy platform.

If a certain area is less popular, it would perhaps encourage the new government to review its policies in this area more carefully. 


David Grimmond is a senior economist at Infometrics. You can contact him here »

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I'd like this even better if voters had a restricted number of points that they had to allocate between different policies and each policy had a number of points (which would reflect the cost and administrative difficulty of implementing it) attached.  Simply asking voters what they want will result in the not-very-startling insight that each of us wants unlimited amounts of other people's money to be spent on the things we like and unlimited amounts of state coercion devoted to preventing other people from doing things we don't like.

Better policy just get rid of our dopey MMP to stop the endless horse trading

Yes, it's much better to be have a minority party hold all the strings like under first-past-the-post.

I'd prefer it if all policy was debated on NZ's constitutional arrangement as a minimum !!!!!
How many policies would actually pass a constitutional test?

What do you mean by "NZ's constitutional arrangement" here? 

The Universal Declaration Of Human Rights (for one)makes up part of the constitutional arrangement of NZ.  It has long been recognised that legislation breaches against Human Rights are the causes of turmoil for the individuals and the populace as a whole. That is why they are so important and must be protected at all times.
The fact is that Politicians are only meant to use the taxation system to supply the basics as outlined in the Declaration so the taxation system is abused by most Political parties and their carrot dangling Policies. Social progress has taken on a whole new meaning over the last 30 years whereby the State creates policies that help some but are detrimental to others. Politcians don't seem capable of being impartial when formulating policy.
Council have the right to planning how, where, what people build, RBNZ dictates how much a new home owner can borrow, GCSB can monitor who they like, a non-medical person can write the surgery list, Schools failed to teach the Universal Declaration, Councils can run up debts and demand rates..Business must collect all taxes at the business's  expense for the Government (that is servitude). Everyone in private enterprise has to go to work everyday or else there is no one earning income for all these policies. Public servants just have to rock up and they get all sorts of handouts care of the private enterprise activities. And all these things because of Policies !
The Universal Declaration is a promise to the people that a Government cannot interfere in issues that will deprive individuals from being able to provide for themselves!!!!
The NZBORA does not include Property yet property is specifically mentioned in the Declaration.  The Bill of Rights 1688 - how many reforms are undertaken that change legislation yet all officers and Minister are meant to serve their majesty to the same in all times to people should not be getting instant fines for traffic offences, late filing fees at the IRD etc.
And where is the competent national tribunal in NZ if you do have a problem that you want remedied?

Article 8.

  • Everyone has the right to an effective remedy by the competent national tribunals for acts violating the fundamental rights granted him by the constitution or by law.

Subjects Liberties to be allowed
Now, in pursuance of the premisses, the said Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in Parliament assembled, for the ratifying, confirming, and establishing the said declaration, and the articles, clauses, matters, and things therein contained, by the force of a law made in due form by authority of Parliament, do pray that it may be declared and enacted that all and singular the rights and liberties asserted and claimed in the said declaration are the true, ancient, and indubitable rights and liberties of the people of this kingdom, and so shall be esteemed, allowed, adjudged, deemed, and taken to be, and that all and every the particulars aforesaid shall be firmly and strictly held and observed, as they are expressed in the said declaration; and all officers and Ministers whatsoever shall serve their Majesties and their successors according to the same in all times to come:

Your extreme interpretation of the document, or indeed any document/law is farcial.   If you feel so strongly about, well sue the Govn that should bring your delusions crashing about your ears.

Nothing extreme in my interpretation at all !!! It is people like you who are too damn lazy to read both history and the documents that make up the constutional arrangement and then want/demand that policy be introduced for this, that, and the next thing and never consider that you might be breaching the constitutional arrangement. Policy is all about what some people can get out of the system rather than what the system should respect and be for all!!!

No Ive read bits of it often after you have posted wacky views of it and frankly your  interpretation is very extreme compared to my reading and indeed I suspect the legislators intent and use. 
Since its the courts job to interpretate laws and they do not appear  to be finding anywhere like you seem to think is so, I tend to conclude you are wrong and un-reasonable.
The system / a society is for all, thats just it, its not for self. This pretty much sums it up,
I pay a great deal of attention to history actually, as someone said,
"Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it"
I find it very true.

And who do you think should have the job of imposing such restraints on the (elected, remember) Government's ability to create legislation which may contravene these and other requirements?
Dave Grimmond's case seems to be that it should still be Parliament, but a Parliament that is made more capable through the provision of civil service expertise to all political parties, not just the ones that are in Government.  I'm picking that you wouldn't support that, given your antipathy to public servants? has a section outlining each parties policies.
We could make a start by having the ability to tick "Like" on the policies that we do like just as we do with peoples comments.
It would be interesting to see how the votes go for each policy and which party gets the most likes.
Wouls have to make sure you could only vote once on each policy.

But it would be a straw poll of mostly libertarians and other extremists, ergo meaningless.

There are too many MP's who really have no clue about economics.
All elected MP's should have a compulsary economics crash course.
Members of the National party support their economic policies with no idea if they are good or bad for the economy. They just blindly follow the leader. Labour MPs are just as bad.

I saw a BBC journalist interviewing a Chinese diplomat. The journalist kept saying "But you are not democratic. You dont have elections"
The Chinese diplomat replied "But thats the only difference. Once we have chosen our respective governments they are free to go ahead and govern as they see fit.
The other point is that democracy comes from two Greek words "Demos" and Cratos" "The people rule".
Today, Democracy in the western world means the right to vote full stop.
There is no relationship between democracy and freedom. You can have democracy (the right to vote) but no freedom. Look at all the government rules and regulations controlling us - We are NOT a free people.
Look at the number of countries round the world that vote but have no freedom.

The rules and regulations you wish to break are there to protect my freedom, not yours.

Yes, a balancing act...

Well that is not "freedom" then.. is it dtcarter? 

Freedom to be protected from assholes? hell yes it is.

The only assholes are the those who are denying freedom to others.
The only reason you are anti-freedom is the fact that you cannot trust yourself to be honest and responsible in your actions. Hell now that is a sad state of affairs !!!

No, I do not trust others to be honest and responsible.  The very way you would wish to treat the RMA , the poor and disavvantaged and interperet our laws shows quite clearly you'd read it any damn way you want, to justify doing anything you damn well want. Of course if there is no regulation then you dont even have to waste time reading to justify your actions to yourself do you? just do it.
I think its great when you come out of your little closet, it shows the general public just what libertarians really mean when they say they want "freedom".

Well all this is in your head steven not mine.
Why do we need the RMA? It doesn't serve any purpose other than to keep a bunch of people in priviledged positions.
If you are so concerned about Environmental issues then why don't you target the EPA who allow all sorts of crap to be registered and then used?
I have also previously pointed you towards the Crimes Act....Part 8!
I am more than happy to comply with the Crimes Act at all times........and have never advocated that I want to do anything I damn well want......that is your interpretation and understanding.......I can't help what enters your head when you read between the lines !!!!
Have you ever wondered why you don't trust others? Is it, as I said, because you don't trust yourself to be honest and responsible?
You really don't understand Freedom......and you most likely never will......because your scared of it.....what a pity!!

So you would be happy for a landfill to open up next door to your home?

So Section 145 Criminal nuisance under the Crimes Act is obviously not good enough for you then?
Firstly Landfill has to go somewhere.
If I didn't want a landfill next door to me I can always buy enough land so that I am not affected.....or sell my home to maybe the developers of the landfill........or I could stay and see what affects there are and if Criminal Nuisance (endangering my life, health, safety) is committed then I can take appropriate action.
It is my responsibility to ensure that when I purchase land to inspect the surrounding areas and to weigh up possible changes that could occur.  I don't own the view, space etc of my neighbouring surrounds but I can if I choose wisely avoid things that I might not like.
They way people have been rushing in and buying property I can't see how anyone has had adequate time to do any due diligence let alone choose wisely.

Well I dont agree with you on the RMA.
George Orwell I think has you summed up well,  in “In Front of Your Nose“:

The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.

reading between the lines is just it, hence why we have laws like the RMA, laws and courts, so they dont allow ppl to read between the lines in order to do as they please.
I do trust others, where they prove to be trustworthy, rational and lucid.  

George Orwell was talking of people like yourself....those who have contradictory beliefs and opinions......Firstly you claim that you care about poor people and make that claims that all the rules and regulations are necessary to assist them.  How you expect all the rules and regulation to catapult them out of poverty when these same rules and regulations are increasing their costs.....Yes..George Orwell is correct...."In Front of Your Nose".
The fact is you are incapable of being dispassionate in your analysis and hence you let your emotions rule. The RMA has been well tested in reality and still you dismiss all the known problems that the RMA's in front of your nose!!! 
I don't think you have any idea how the RMA, law and Courts work.

notaneconomist, heres a clip on Norway, interesting stuff.

Haha, yes, Norway, neo-con paradise!

"we see nothing from the welfare state" "it's an illision"
Where can i get whatever those guys are smoking?

"the scandanavian countries must have been conciously choosen to see what can be created in terms of turning us into submissive slaves"  
ROFLMA what a bunch of conspiricy theorist nutters.  I can't wait to mention this to my Norweigian friends next time i am visiting.  BTW did you know you are all submissive slaves in norway?  That your so-called top ranking in the happyness index is actually due to subconcious mind control by neo-cons!  They will be shocked to find this out i am sure!

"13% return [on their soverign wealth fund] is very little, and if you were investing in the stockmarket you would expect much larger returns"
I challenge her to tell me where exactly she would invest 1% of the worlds stockmarket equity, to get "much larger than 13%" returns?
That interview is 'interesting' for how much nonsense they can fit into 2 hours, but i am afraid i do not have the willpower to listen to it all

Steven, the Libertarian case is that people are the best judges as to what is in their own best interests, and so they should be able to do as they wish with their own persons and property - subject only to the constraint that they do not harm the persons and property of others, and that they abide by any contractual arrangements they have entered into.  Thus, the Government's role is restricted to protecting persons and private property and enforcing contracts.
Could you give some examples of things you think the Government ought to do that go beyond those functions?

No, not people but individuals there is a difference.  Property/items often is a commons, eg water, air and ownership is a point in time.  By this I mean you cannot do what you want with say minerals or teh air we breath as they are there for multi-generational use and not to be used/ruined in one.
"functions" The NZ government as it is setup now. eg public health care,  public infrastructure, public education etc.

What is the difference between people and individuals?
No, property is not "often" a commons, and even less often does it necessarily have to be.  Air is an obvious example where private ownership is an impossibility, but land, rights to extract minerals, water are all commodities that can be owned, bought and sold.  And individuals who own something tend to have a stronger incentive to look after it, to preserve or increase its value, than they do if it's communally owned, or not owned at all.  
Certainly, it is desirable that there should be health services, infrastructure and education.  It is also desirable that food, clothing and entertainment should be widely available and in a variety of qualities and costs.  The Government plays little to no part in providing these.   Why do you think that is?

Exactly, and that's why we have the RMA, to ensure others do not harm the persons and property of others.

You are using the RMA to protect the spaces that extend away from your property boundary then aren't you? You are putting yourself before all others and hold others and there property as less important than yourself!

No i am holding others and their property as equal to myself.  They have the same rights to protection of their property from me, as i do from them.

That is not true......there are no rights or protection for a landowner who may wish to change how the land is used.
An applicant requiring consents under the RMA pays all the costs.
Opposers (usually neighbours) wear none of the costs.
The Council charges the applicant for all costs related to those who oppose applications so there is no protection of rights or property of the applicant so nothing equal here.
If a Council decides to oppose and applicants consents and the matter ends up in the Environment Court then those who opposed the applicants and put in submissions can piggyback off the ratepayers who are paying for the Councils legal costs.
So while you might consider that you think property rights are equally protected, when this is tested against reality you'll find that your comments/beliefs do not stand the reality test.
As I said you are using the RMA to control beyond your boundary onto another persons land. So you are not protecting your own property you are protecting what you don't own and haven't paid for.

Your missing the point.  If property rights are unequal, then tell me what rights do i have that you do not?

And the neigbour has equal rights over my sunshine.  We live in a society that has decided we must be nice neighbours.  I see nothing wrong in being a nice neighbour.

Did you actually read my first sentence?
The RMA is about the activity that takes place on the land. 

You seek the freedom afforded only to dictators.

Bollocks that is what you are creating !!!!

But you presumably wouldn't argue that any protective regulation is justifiable? 
For example, putting all men in prison in order to protect women's freedom to walk the streets whenever they want and dress how they like without fear of rape (women who actually did want sex could visit prison for the purpose).
You see the problem - while such a move would undoubtedly be very effective in ensuring that women weren't raped and reducing many other forms of crime as well, it would also be enormously expensive to administer, punish men who would never have raped anybody anyway and also impose an opportunity cost on society as a whole by preventing men from undertaking the good, socially beneficial works they might have undertaken had they not been in prison.
All regulation does that - as well as reducing (though it can never entirely prevent) harm, it also creates costs of enforcement and administration, imposes costs on people who wouldn't have done harm anyway, and prevents good that might have been done if people had been freer.
Are you quite confident that all the regulation that is currently in place in New Zealand falls onto the right side of that balance?

Are you quite confident that all regulation that is currently in place falls on the wrong side of the balance?

No, not at all.  Over to you

well then, seems we are in agreement

On the assumption that you are agreeing that some existing regulation places unnecessary constraints on freedom?

You have considerable freedom, just it isnt un-limited, run amoke do what you want freedom.

What a load of nonsense !!!!
People do not have freedom they pay for the right to do something!!!! My god you're so incredibly naive.
If I want to build a house I must pay the authorities.
if I want subdivide a piece of land I must the authorities.
If I want to put an extra toilet in my house I must pay the authorities.
If I want to flush that toilet I must pay the authorites.
If I want to own a gun I must pay the authorities.
If I want to have a business I must pay the authorities to set the business up.
I must also pay ACC to the authorites.
If I want to leave the country I must pay the authorities.
If I want to park in the city I must pay the authorities.
If I want to Buy or sell any goods or services I must pay the authorites.
I must register my childrens births and pay the authorities.
My death must be registered and pay the authorities.
I must pay the authorities for probate.
If I want to appoint my own power of attorney I must pay my lawyer to set this up or the authorites take over and will charge my estate and treat me with how they see fit.
If I drive 5km over the speed limit I must pay the authorities.
If i want to drive a car I must register it and pay the authorites.
If I want to drive a truck I must again pay the authorities.
If I want to open a bar or food premises I must pay the authorities.
The list of paying the authorities is endless!!!  You can't do much without asking the authorities, ticking all their boxes and of course paying them for their permission/license etc. The only "unlimited" is the endless ways in which they find ways for a person to pay.
Would you be so willing to have all these rules and regulations if those that wanted/demanded them had to pay for them?  I think you'd be the first person to bolt for the scrub if you thought it was going to cost you anything.

I love it when people cite 'Greek' democracy. 
In the classical period, at the height of it's democracy, Athens extended its democratic franchise to about 10% of its population. Only adult males from old land-owning families got to play that game. Women, slaves and foreigners need not apply.

Here's a quote I came across recently, from Henry Louis Mencken, an American journalist of the early 20th century: 
"The average man does not want to be free.  He just wants to be safe."  
Seems to me that that is what most Governments are abiding by, for better or for worse.

If that is true MdM then the average man has issues which are beyond freedom.
The average man who just wants to be suffering from fear!
Fear is an enemy of the beholder.

Yes, he absolutely is, and it suits many people's interest to keep him so

Fully agree MdM.

"There is no question that open economy democracies have been associated with strong wealth gains for their citizens."
Yes there is, the top 1% certainly, the bottom 20%? hardly any gain.

If you look over a shorter time frame, sure. In the longer run, e.g. over multiple decades, you'd be hard pressed to argue we're worse off. Of course the top 1% are always going to be better than the bottom 20% (or even the top 2%) - they have to be by definition, which is why it makes such a good slogan.

The top 1% are always going to be better off than that bottom 20%.  Sure no argument, as you say it's by definition.
But whats changed is how much better off.  Nowdays the top 10% are richer than the bottom 90% combined!
The weath used to be spread much more evenly, but those at the top are managing to funnel off all the wealth for themselves nowdays.  Wages in the US for instance have not increased since the early 70s  Meanwhile income levels at the top have skyrocketted.

In 2012, the incomes of the top 1 percent rose nearly 20 percent compared with a 1 percent increase for the remaining 99 percent.
So after inflation of 1.7%, 99% of the population are actually worse off.  Meanwhile the top 1% are much much better off.

That article is about the US. 

No this isnt the same thing/point. The point is the 1% at the top have indeed got a lot wealthier from the changes of the last 30 years, but not everyone as the writer claims. As we can see that the bottom 20% however have not got wealthier as inequality got a lot worse since the 1980s changes.

So only 80% of the population has got wealthier?

So what would you prefer Steven.......all income thrown into the pot and then distributed evenly/equally?
Then you would add in that all women of child-bearing age should be taking birth control pills.
Then you want everyone using Shanks' Pony. It's the peak oil thing.
Then you'd ban all energy sources that you have a dislike for.....climate change.
Hmmmmm....Chairman Mao thought he knew best too.......and 40 million Chinese died during the famine.....not because China couldn't grow enough food....but because China exported all the food that they grew to cover the debts that the Government had accrued.

No, you do a straw man arguemnt ie make things up I do not say again and again.
a) I'd wish to see the inequality that has got worse over the last 30 years in NZ reversed.  There will always be in-equality I accept that.
b) Women of child bearing age should e allowed to choose and given free access to the birth control strategy of their choice and so encouraged via education as we have to reduce our popualtion.   A far less painful way to reduce population than watching your children starve to death or die on the battlefield.
c) I dont want to see ppl using shank's pony, I point out that is a consquence of peak oil.
d) Yes I advocate for moving to renewable energy sources to stop climate change.
e) Not true on Mao's/china's debt as far as I am aware. URL? It is docuemented that he shipped food to albania for political gain even as his ppl starved. Pretty sure china had little soverign debt as such.
and Mao was a monster btw, so bad I stopped reading his history at about page 120, too horrific.
I recommend if, if you have as strong stomach.
Im sure Stalin will prove as bad....
Chairman Mao didnt know best except for the best for lookiing out for himself at the expense of all others, very Libertarian of him really.

"are not the approaches that one is likely to find recommended in management texts."
Few organisations follow such texts anyway, it comes down to politics no matter what.

Well utter crap, I mean "because of their contribution to defusing the ‘demographic time-bomb’ of an ageing population."
yes, utter crap.

Switzerland is the only democratic country in the world. 500 years of peace and widespread prosperity are the result. And nobody knows a single Swiss politician because they only execute on the results of referenda and do not play monarch like a Hollande or Merkel, or even John Key.
New Zealand and the rest with their so-called "representative democracy" are 4-year dictatorships. 
Don't talk policy, as those policies are largely forgotten after election day anyway, talk about bringing democracy to New Zealand.