Saturday, February 04, 2006

First-past-the-post versus corporatism

Lawrence Solomon, a right-wing environmentalist (whatever the hell that is!), with whom I rarely agree, writes the only article defending the Canadian electoral system against the ubiquitous attacks from the proportional representation elites. People say that the United States, Canada and Britain are the only countries still using the 'old-fashioned' first-past-the-post system (we could also add France to that list). My counter to that is that these are sadly the only three real democracies in the world. The elites hate first-past-the-post, as it gives way too much power to the people. They despise the fact that an entire slate of elected officials can be turfed on their ears by the choice of the voters. The nerve! Don't the peons have any respect? The hidden agenda is to put the genie of power in the people back in the bottle. The much preferred alternative is called corporatism, where left and right elites decide that their common interests outweigh the interests of the electorate. They thus conspire in back rooms to horse trade for their respective interests, leaving the messiness of democracy behind.

The real problem with first-past-the-post is that it is too unpredictable for corporate interests. Corporations don't like having full control over the agenda. They thus buy the leftist elites by promising them power in the back rooms. Since the lefties are tempted by the illusion of having power (not to mention the trappings of power, which they never thought they'd get under the old system!), the deals are made. Needless to say, the corporate interests always end up having their way. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the idea that politics should be based on class interests, leading to something like the current situation in Germany, where politicians with supposedly opposite positions have formed a coalition. There are no longer left and right, just generic interchangeable politicians who represent corporate interests.

It is interesting that the real problem with the electoral systems in each of Canada, the United States and Britain is that the executive has unconstitutionally taken too much power. Blair's done it, there is currently a big debate in the United States over it, and Canada is essentially run out of the Prime Minister's Office (the last Canadian election, described as being about Liberal corruption, was really about corporate lobbyist control of the Prime Minister's Office). The reason for this is the reaction of the elites to the fact that the electoral system puts too much power in the people. Their answer is to retake the power by removing power from legislatures in favor of the back rooms of the executive offices. This is a serious problem, but it can be fixed. Most if not all of the concerns people have about the voting systems turns on this unconstitutional usurpation of power (the Americans also have their own peculiar problem in that they can't seem to get around to removing their crooked voting machines). It would be ironic if the response to this fixable problem is to take all power away from the people.