Making Politicians Behave

Jamie Whyte has an interesting idea:

When no amount of prior regulation reduces the quantity of subsequent regulation, it is clear that politicians\’ incentives to legislate are disconnected from any good that their laws might do. How can this preposterous situation be remedied?

An attempt is currently before New Zealand\’s Parliament. The Regulatory Responsibility Bill aims to improve the quality of legislation by specifying principles of responsible regulation and requiring the sponsor of any new Bill to report on its compliance with these principles.

The principles are simple and uncontroversial but still sufficient to rule out most recent British legislation. For example, one states that legislation should not diminish the rule of law by creating uncertainty as to whether actions are lawful. That would dispose of Britain\’s “incitement to hatred” laws. Another states that legislation should not diminish freedom of contract. That would rule out most employment legislation, which is little more than a conspiracy against freedom of contract. And the principle that a Bill should not be passed into law if its goal could better be achieved without it would do for almost all other legislation of recent years.

Alas, the Bill does not go far enough. It provides no extra-parliamentary mechanism for ensuring adherence to its principles, explicitly ruling out judicial review. The shame of publishing a report about their misguided, principles-violating legislation is supposed to keep politicians honest.

As the first comment points out, that mechanism was in fact the House of Lords.

But the general thrust seems sound. If we cannot have my preferred solution to politicians (hang them all and let God sort them out) then can we at least make them irrelevant?

3 thoughts on “Making Politicians Behave”

  1. Politicians are not the problem, it is the embedded concept of a political party. If exclusive political affiliation were outlawed, then we’d have more independent politicians as interest into voter expectation would be a more natural regulation of politician’s behaviour.

    Strange as it seems, NZ adopted PR about 15 years ago, and a particularly vile variant (MMP) that almost makes exclusive political associations (party lists) mandatory and even allows people to enter government without anyone casting a vote in their favour.

    Now we have legislation to make politicians behave, quelle surprise !

  2. Three tests for any benefits apparently resulting from legislation, in ten words:

    1. At what cost?
    2. Compared to what?
    3. How do you know?

  3. The NZ proposal appears to be adding more government regulatioin by the shedful. Might stop new legislation, but it would also stop most old legislation being repealed, so I would be careful.

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