I suppose in one way I could say those values were central to a claim I could’ve made through my insurance company some time ago, willing to pay for water damage when an unsatisfactory plumber left tiles off my roof while doing repairs, thereby causing rain to pour through the ceilings instead, and choosing to hold him personally to account through VCAT.Posted by Lynne Newington on 13/07/18 at 10:28 AM
Re this: “But the heart of the problem, and a reason why major parties are now so much on the nose, has been a self-serving view of the duty of an elected representative, which puts party policy (and especially the need to avoid an appearance of internal dissension) above the duty members owe the public, which includes the duty to act in accordance with community values. “
This goes only part of the way, but it fails to get to the nub of the problem which is where the real damage is being done.
That self serving view is repellent to the sort of person whose fundamental values are compatible with making the world a better place. Bereft of those individuals, the political parties fail to serve the common good and attract only those whose understanding of the role of values is insufficient to allow them to create a better world, or those whose motivation is entirely self serving and whose values are in conflict with delivering for the common good. That standard of leadership leaches its way through the structure of the entire society, eroding standards and confidence as it goes, and we wind up exactly where we are now, with a polity that is best described by reference to satire and farce.
In short, the way political parties operate repels the sort of people who would make good leaders, and so the quality of leadership at a political level will continue getting steadily worse.
The solution, in the absence of anything better, is to ditch political parties and support the best of the independents. If either Scott or Max can explain why I am in error, or if either has a better solution, I am all ears.
God knows, this problem needs a solution, and sooner rather than later.Posted by Simon Warriner on 14/07/18 at 04:17 PM
While I thank Scott for his kind but overly generous comments, none of my papers has any claim to originality. The ideas and arguments are discussed in the literature by far better writers and scholars, including those whom he cites. The aim is to try to clarify these so readers can judge their relevance to social and political issues.
In recent years my writing has benefited more than I can say from Scott’s advice and scholarship. I am fortunate to have had this collaboration with a friend and former colleague who believes passionately that we should try to understand and keep alive the insights of great thinkers of the past.Posted by max atkinson on 16/07/18 at 10:11 AM
Max, your humility is noted and applauded. It is too rare a thing these days. I thank both yourself and Scott for your contribution to my education, even if it’s effects are not that obvious.Posted by Simon Warriner on 16/07/18 at 11:33 AM
Really Max, this is a summary of the utilitarian credo that ideologically fronted for industrial capitalism and provide the rationalisation for stripping out the traditional commons in favour of individuals and private interests.
This ultimately made it possible for market forces to replace the ‘repressive’ and ‘authoritarian’ social means of reproduction/socialization with its own much more powerful (albeit radically narrowed) and far more totalitarian instrumentalities that make the dictatorships of the past look amateurish, and leave behind a trail of chaos outside the limited social software of shop troops and contractor drones.Posted by Christopher Eastman-Nagle on 16/07/18 at 02:29 PM
#2 and #4 ... Thank you Simon, for your comment and kind words.
You are quite right: this article does not attempt to address your legitimate concerns, including the erosion of standards and confidence in politicians and the need to attract better representatives.
Rather, it is concerned with the nature of their duty to act on their own best conscience and judgement based on their interpretation of community value once elected. This focus is deliberate, because such a duty is not widely understood or accepted. Very few elected representatives, journalists, political commentators, readers of TT or members of the community at large are committed to such a view, hence the need to argue for it!
Voting for independents would indeed remove one difficulty: the pressure to delegate this personal duty to a political party. However, there is no guarantee that independents are any less likely to act in accordance with their own self-interest, or that of other special interest groups or opinion polls, etc.
Nor does the fact that an individual is a member of a party necessarily prevent them from acting on Burke’s dictum. Indeed, it could be argued that we need more elected members of political parties to have the courage to do so, in order for parties to change their obsession with party unity.
I was recently pleased to read the following extracts from Christine Milne’s political memoir, An Activist Life:
“I had never been able to understand how people could stand in a parliament and vote against what they believed was right because the party said so. I would not then, nor would I now, join a political party that did not allow its elected members a conscience vote on every issue, because every issue has at its heart a values dimension.
“If you don’t extend that respect to candidates, how do you expect people of integrity to stand for parliament? How can you maintain your self-respect and personal integrity if you sell out your own values?
“Values in politics have now conveniently been restricted by the Coalition and Labor to matters of personal morality, such as the reproductive rights of women, the rights of the LGBTIQ community and euthanasia.. …while deliberately refusing to acknowledge the social morality of decisions on pensions, going to war, global warming or sending refugees to offshore detention and torture on Nauru or Manus Island. It is so politically convenient to declare some issues as matters of conscience and others not as a way of keeping the numbers in line.
“How much better would decision-making be if a conscience vote was extended to everyone on everything? If a party’s platform was aligned with its values, its numbers on a vote in parliament would rarely be thwarted by internal dissenting opinions ...”
It seems to me that a wider acceptance of this is a precondition to restoring standards and confidence in our system of parliamentary democracy to which we are both committed.Posted by Scott MacInnes on 20/07/18 at 08:21 AM
Re #6 ... Hi Scott. You are welcome.
You are correct, but had I just agreed this discussion might not have happened.
About this: “Indeed, it could be argued that we need more elected members of political parties to have the courage to do so, in order for parties to change their obsession with party unity.”
That is a chicken and egg problem and the chickens’ keepers have decided they will very carefully vet any aspiring roosters to make sure they get no more bad eggs.
The party obsession with loyalty is driving away from party politics the very people who would be smart enough to see the need for change. Those who display any indication of having sufficient backbone to challenge the orthodoxy don’t get preselected .. witness Gavin Pearce for the libs in Braddon. Well capable of the moral fortitude required to cross the floor on a matter of principle. Passed over in favour of Whitely who will toe the line to the very last .. based on his observed performance. If they do slip through the net and act up, they only last one round before they get the flick. Party politics is on an inexorable slide to the nether world because of it.
I heartily agree that independents can be corrupted in all manner of ways, but the corruption can be eliminated, one corrupt independent at a time, with ease, at each and every election, by the voters, without recourse to expensive ICAC type processes. Independents are on their own and surrounded by others who have nothing to lose by calling them out for their treachery. So much more difficult when the corruption is embedded in the party officials who do not face election, or in those who get the number one position on the ballot ticket repeatedly. It is those people who get to make the pre-selection decisions, and they are not about to give up their power any time soon. We cannot wait that long.
On Christine Milne’s view of the matter, I agree, but the party she was talking about no longer exists other than in name alone. Its ex members have told me this, very very plainly and it has been demonstrated often enough through action, and inaction. It has been that demonstration by action that has caused ex members to leave.
Wishing for change is well and good, but reason and reality tell us that the party political structure is not going to change in a hurry. Why waste time and energy on that hope when the public distaste for party politics can be used to place a far more responsive, standards-driven class of representation into our leadership roles?Posted by Simon Warriner on 20/07/18 at 05:02 PM