Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Choice and Democracy

I've just reading Sam Mezec's latest blog. I would note that he puts a good case in numbers for Option A, and larger districts.
http://sammezec.blogspot.com/2013/01/reform-option-deputies-for-states.html

However, several submissions to the Commission did also put a very good case for versions of Clothier, smaller districts but with voter parity. Some people think that losing the Islandwide mandate is also something not to be taken lightly; ask Lyndon Farnham for his views, or my mother, for that matter! Others think that you cannot simply play a numbers game without respecting the heritage of the Island, and that Constables can supply an important and very different voice to the States. So I'm not that swayed by the rhetorical flourish which says:

"It is a clear choice between one democratic option and two undemocratic options."
"The Only Democratic Option"

Now Sam does a good job of arguing the case for Option A, but that's the only one he looks for positive arguments for, so not unnaturally, he finds them. I am sure that there will be supporters for Option B and Option C, and they will think they have positive arguments for their case, and against Option A. Some of those can already be seen in the submissions to the Commission, others may be forthcoming.

What I contend is that we cannot prejudge the vote by saying that one option is "more democratic" than another as a proven fact. An argument is not like a proof in mathematics, which is either valid or not, or a scientific theory which can be falsified. It's a means of persuasion, of mustering facts to support a particular position, and while some arguments may appear more compelling or persuasive to me, they may not be so to another individual. What is blindingly obvious to Mr Smith is wrong to Mr Jones, and it doesn't matter what the numbers say, he knows how they can be manipulated. In short, people don't just argue like calculating machines, as a Council of Vulcans, applying cold logic. There are all sorts of other factors which come into a decision, not least because we are flesh and blood and have feelings.

Rationality and cold logic brought in the metric system, built solidly about base 10, the attempt to bring order to time with "decimal time" failed, despite several attempts to introduce it. Spelling reform left a legacy in which many American spellings are phonetic unlike English counterparts, but the fervent attempts to complete the task failed. There are very few Esperanto speakers in the world, yet it was devised as a model language, a child of reason and the enlightenment. That's why numbers don't always provide the whole picture; people make decisions on other factors, as no doubt we will see in the voting, and is clear from the submissions, most of which say all kinds of differing things.

And even the most basic of assumptions can be questioned, for instance:

"If you accept the objectives tests of democracy (equality, representation and choice) then Option A, 42 Deputies in 6 super-constituencies, is the only option on the table that meets all the criteria. It is simple, clear and fair."

For the ancient Greeks of Athens, democracy was something which gave each citizen an equal vote. An Athenian citizen at the time of Pericles may well be horrified with the idea of representation. In his novel "October The First is Too Late", Fred Hoyle puts this very neatly:

Our hosts were concerned with the structure of the seas beyond the Pillars of Hercules, with what we believed about the nature of the world. How was our political life organized? They didn't like the idea of elected representatives of the people. To them it was important that every free adult member of the community should be permitted to vote on every specific issue. It was impossible to explain that the very size of our population precluded their own democratic system. Morgan pointed out that our people were scattered in many cities, that it was impossible for them to be constantly travelling in order to discuss things together. It was essential for each city to appoint its own representatives and for the representatives of all the cities to confer together. I was surprised and rather alarmed by the serious, chilled manner in which this was received. (1)

While the Greek system - often called "direct democracy" excluded slaves and women from political participation, all citizens debated and voted on every issue. Pericles noted how all citizens took part, not at one stage removed, but directly:

Our political system does not compete with with institutions which are elsewhere in force. We do not copy our neighbors, but try to be an example. Our administration favors the many instead of the few: this is why it is called a democracy.

An Athenian citizen does not neglect public affairs when attending to his private business.... We consider a man who takes no interest in the state not as harmless, but as useless; and although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.(6)

Today in most countries, democracy means electing representatives to debate and vote for you and me, and it is not the case, as with Athenian democracy that "we are all able to judge a policy" and whether that detachment from the actual voter leads to a better system is debatable. For the Ancient Greeks, modern "representative democracy"  would be a process by which the people are disempowered to govern the society they live in. Others do it for them.

Cecil Chesterton was inclined to think this system was not good, and could be manipulated - "The Party System" which he wrote with Hilaire Belloc is an attempt to show this. Their theme was that "Votes and elections and representative assemblies are not democracy ; they are at best machinery for carrying out democracy." and they argued that the system of political parties was a sham, whichever party was in power worked for vested interests, not the people who elected them. That was because they argued that with a Party system, in practice no candidate can run with much of a chance of getting elected without their sanction. And when they were writing, around 1911, what they could see was two Parties with very similar agenda, so that the voter's choice was severely limited. For them, the Parties had effectively stitched up the public, so that Party Politics was the most undemocratic way of people having their say. Looking at the coupon elections, and the later National Government under Macdonald and then Baldwin, it certainly seems they had a point. Even today, with manifesto "promises", it is still very much like choosing between two set menus, always with the possibility that the chef will tell you a particular course is not available, and you will have to settle for a replacement.

And as G.K. Chesterton himself pointed out in a letter about the UK's system of representative democracy, "I say our representatives accept designs and desires almost entirely from the Cabinet class above them; and practically not at all from the constituents below them. I say the people does not wield a Parliament which wields a Cabinet. I say the Cabinet bullies a timid Parliament which bullies a bewildered people. Is that plain?" It is that deflection by the disadvantage of representation, which is the weakness of that system over Athenian democracy, where "only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it".

I think that while it is probably the only workable system with large numbers of people, a point made by Fred Hoyle, it doesn't mean that it is not defective in all kinds of ways, as can be seen above. So I'd question whether Sam can say that "representation" is an objective test of democracy. You may have candidates standing none of which you wish to vote for, or believe could adequately represent you, which is where the campaign to have NOTA (None of the Above) on voting slips comes from, addressing what they see as a marked deficiency - the inability to have that choice counted.

Arguments can be mustered for and against any option, and a good philosopher would do just that. It is one of the areas where Richard Dawkins fell out with Michael Ruse. For Dawkins, atheism was the only answer, and it is important to argue against what he perceived to be "the enemies of reason", but Ruse, as a philosopher, was prepared to argue different points of view, even ones he did not personally believe in:

I, like Dawkins, am a non-believer. Yet I, like Williams, refuse to put science and religion at war. This is partly because I do not think they have to be - I see them as asking different questions. But it is also because I think there is something socially and psychologically unhealthy about the course that the debate has taken, especially by those on my side of the fence. I do not think the faults are all on one side, but let me speak to the side to which I might naturally be expected to belong.

There are many aspects of religion that I find really offensive, celibate old men in skirts telling young women how to run their private lives being one. Not all scientists are keen on authority; plenty would say that the best thing about science is that it is anti-authoritarian. Nonetheless, when scientists start talking about values, they often find it hard to resist the temptations of moralising and authoritarianism. (2)

It's that which I find debatable about Sam's approach. There's a certainty about it. It is the right option, and if you can't see that, it is because of ideological blinkers. The argument is clear cut, and irrefutable. But not everyone accepts Sam's axioms about what he considers "objective tests of democracy". I don't think it is such a "clear choice"; it is to him and his supporters, it plainly is not to everyone.

For Karl Popper, for example, democracy mean the ability of the people to remove political leaders they did not want and replace them without bloodshed; it is very much a minimalist idea. for him, the vital question is not 'Who should rule?' but 'How can we minimize misrule?"

For we may distinguish two main types of government. The first type consists of governments of which we can get rid of without bloodshed - for example, by way of general elections; that is to say, the social institutions provide means by which the rulers may be dismissed by the ruled, and the social traditions ensure that these institutions will not easily be destroyed by those who are in power. The second type consists of governments which the ruled cannot get rid of except by way of a successful revolution - that is to say, in most cases, not at all. I suggest the term 'democracy' as a short-hand label for a government of the first type, and the term 'tyranny' or 'dictatorship'; for the second. This, I believe, corresponds closely to traditional usage.

Seen in this light, the theory of democracy is not based upon the principle that the majority should rule; rather, the various equalitarian methods of democratic control, such as democratic elections and representative government, are to be considered as no more than well-tried and, in the presence of a widespread traditional distrust of tyranny, reasonable effective institutional safe-guards against tyranny, always open to improvement, and even providing methods for their own improvement. (3)

C.S. Lewis had a similar notion of democracy. It was the best of bad options, because, as with Popper, the question was not "Who should rule?" but how can we prevent misrule:

I am a democrat [proponent of democracy] because I believe in the Fall of Man. I think most people are democrats for the opposite reason. A great deal of democratic enthusiasm descends from the ideas of people like Rousseau, who believed in democracy because they thought mankind so wise and good that every one deserved a share in the government. The danger of defending democracy on those grounds is that they're not true. . . . I find that they're not true without looking further than myself. I don't deserve a share in governing a hen-roost. Much less a nation. . . . The real reason for democracy is just the reverse. Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. (5)

The word "democracy", as Orwell noted, is a shifting one, capable of many uses, and many definitions, all of which are used to legitimise kind of government - "In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning."

A perusal of the Isle of Man, the Swiss Cantons, the USA, the UK, and the European Parliament shows that there are certainly many kinds of representative democracy. All have their supporters, and there are people who will argue strongly in favour of first past the post as there are those who want some kind of proportional representation.

The mathematical treatment of voting systems, as New Scientist showed (an article by mathematician Ian Stewart in 2010), was that they all had their deficiencies, although of course those are generally glossed over by their supporters. Kenneth Arrow actually used mathematics to prove that no voting system can be perfect.  In Jersey, this can be seen in the varying arguments in the submission to the Commission's website, and there are those who think that Option A, losing an Island wide mandate (which some want to be increased) is not a good way to go. Clothier, as is well known, favoured removal of Constables and Senators, and adjusting numbers among the existing Parishes and districts. 

So in short, the one thing about a "clear choice" is that it is not clear. There is no unanimity in it. And there is nothing reprehensible about taking a different point of view, and going for Option B or Option C, or even spoiling the paper or not voting because you don't like any of the options available. For some people, it is being told "take a card", and the card trick uses the fact that only the suit of clubs is available. There should not be any presumption that somehow supporters of Option A have the truth and that those who do not are lesser beings, perhaps even somewhat shifty or immoral.

In fact returning to what has been said:

"It is a clear choice between one democratic option and two undemocratic options."
"The Only Democratic Option"

In fact, the real democratic option is to give the people the ability to choose - a Referendum. That is the one democratic option, and whichever option comes out as that chosen, no one can see it is not "Vox Populi", the people of Jersey will have spoken. It may well be a result that the supporters of Option A do not like. It may be an option that I do not like. But it is the democratic option, in a very real sense of direct democracy, of actually letting the citizens decide, just as the Athenians did.

Perhaps I am naive, but like G.K. Chesterton, I tend to think that the instinct of the people is probably better than intellectuals. I'm prepared to put my trust in the commonsense of the ordinary man or woman, and let them decide what is the democratic option, rather than prejudge it. By all means let's argue the Options, but let's not say that our own choice is "democratic" and the others are "undemocratic" until after the vote is counted.

If there is one class of men whom history has proved especially and supremely capable of going quite wrong in all directions, it is the class of highly intellectual men. I would always prefer to go by the bulk of humanity; that is why I am a democrat. (4)

Links(1) http://scilib-fiction.narod.ru/Hoyle/October1/index.html
(2) http://www.aeonmagazine.com/world-views/michael-ruse-humanism-religion/
(3) http://lachlan.bluehaze.com.au/books/popper_open_society_vol1.html
(4) http://www.gutenberg.org/files/11505/11505-h/11505-h.htm
(5) Present Concerns, C.S. Lewis
(6) http://www.dcn.davis.ca.us/~sander/mensa/popper1.html
(7) http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627581.400-electoral-dysfunction-why-democracy-is-always-unfair.html
(8) http://cowles.econ.yale.edu/P/cd/d11a/d1123-r3.pdf

20 comments:

Ugh, It's Him! said...

How fair your essay on Sam's piece is rather depends on whether his was analysis or rhetoric. I read it as rhetoric, and good rhetoric, putting my own views better than I could myself, at that. Emphatic assertions of the argument you wish to prevail are an important technique to that end.
As an academic and analytical overview, the faults you find would be grave flaws indeed, but knowing Sam to be overtly a political partisan, I don't believe his blog shuld be taken that way.

TonyTheProf said...

If it was rhetoric, I think it was bad rhetoric, but there we may agree to differ.

Giving a referendum to the people - all Islanders - with different options, is better than imposing one particular option on them, which is essentially what Clothier did. Option A, B and C are all "democratic", because everyone can vote for them, there are supporters for all of them, arguments can be adduced for all of them, and it actually fits the Athenian model of democracy - to quote Pericles, " "only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it".

That's probably the most democratic thing that has happened in Jersey in the past 100 years, not withstanding the last referendum, which was really on trivia.

Sam Mézec said...

I'm always grateful for a rebuttal. Here is my response to the response -

I did think over whether to use the word "objective" but settled on it after reading through things like the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and the Venice Commission. Of course everyone has their different views of what democracy is (ultimately I take the etymological approach), but there are internationally prescribed standards that representative democracies are supposed to adhere to to be considered to be compatible what what being a representative democracy means. Those are what I mean by those objective principles and standards.

People are entitled to prefer this type of democracy over that type etc, but in the context of this debate, I need to hear them explain specifically (and you haven't provided any specifics in this rebuttal) how a system which does not provide voter equity is compatible with their vision of democracy. I want to hear people explain why they believe it is appropriate and democratic for a voter in St Mary to have a vote that is worth more than a voter in St Clement.

I have produced graphs and statistics to clearly demonstrate that I am simply correct in pointing out that Option A is most compatible with those objective tests provided in the UNDHR and Venice Commission. What I want to see is either a rebuttal, or (and more likely) a justification for the deviations that Options B and C provide. I acknowledge in my blog that there are arguments to be had and we need to hear them.

But I actually have the benefit of the agreement of the people that actually devised Option B. Both in their report and on public platforms, the Electoral Commission members have all said that Option A is the democratic option. So when I asked them why they even bothered creating an Option B then, they justified it by saying that some people are not interested in things like equal suffrage and voter parity. Fair enough. That's a legitimate point of view to have. Some will be more concerned about other aspects and my arguments on democracy will not be what concerns them, as you have rightly said.

But I take real issue with the idea that somehow a referendum will make it democratic.

My comprehensive argument against that point is found in the "Is a referendum democratic?" section on this posting -
http://sammezec.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/submission-to-electoral-commission.html

Just because something has been endorsed in a vote does not make it democratic. If the public voted tomorrow to take the vote away from lefthanded people, would that be democratic? No, of course not. Democracy is about those wider principles that I mentioned.

You rightly say that democracy is about "being able to choose" but then you say that means a referendum is democratic. But what if a referendum stifles ones ability to choose? Being able to choose needs effective rules that govern it and place everyone as equals with their ability to choose. A referendum to keep the Constables in the States takes away the freedom of a Parish to choose whether they send their Constable to the States or not, by making it arbitrary that they are in the States regardless. A referendum outcome of Option B takes away choice from islanders in a way that Option A does not because it provides a perfectly level playing field.

Choice can only work if people have the ability to choose, and that means having an equal voting system.



But anyway, thanks for doing this blog post. I hope a lot more of this sort of thing will come about over the next few months. The more discussion there is the better. I don't know how you are with speaking in public, but Reform Jersey is going to want to get public debates organised in the campaign and I'm sure you'd be more than welcome to contribute a dissenting view.

TonyTheProf said...

I don't speak much in public, because I am rather deaf, and can't hear much in public meetings.

What I am saying is that a referendum introduces a measure of democracy which would have been approved by the founding fathers of democracy like Pericles.

And no, democracy is not faultless. Just as the public could take away the vote from left handed people, any elected government could do the same, or perhaps (which is a more realistic possibility) introduce Sharia Law.

Just because the people might vote to take the vote from left handed people doesn't mean that they will, any more than the elected States might do so, and there are far less of them to impose their will on the rest of us.

What is more is that this also falls into the category of Pericles oration - "only a few may originate a policy". So a removal of the vote against left handed people is not on the political agenda, not is it likely to be.

An elected government can just as easily turn tyrannical against a group of ordinary people as the mass of the people. The Nazi Party came to power as an elected party, with public support.

I would say it is more likely that an elected party could turn to tyranny than a referendum question could ever appear, especially as said questions must be approved by the States as well.

"Being able to choose needs effective rules that govern it and place everyone as equals with their ability to choose."

So removing Option B is somehow increasing people's ability to choose, because it is a bad choice!

And there is no reason why Option B may in time lead to Option A if it doesn't work.

Option A does provide "a perfectly level playing field" with regard to voter parity, but there may be other reasons (as submissions show) for Option B.

Then the question becomes - do we privilege voter parity above those other reasons, and if so, why should we - a question for which I suspect there is no clear cut answer.

Daniel said...

I think Tony is seriously off-beam here. Though much in the article is fine and thought-provoking, he ignores the feral nature of Jersey (and everywhere's??) politics.

This piece is plain wrong in one crucial matter. I will deal with that first and then make some other points. I have deliberately not read other comments, so this is a first reaction. I have used CAPS to denote emphasis, I don’t like doing this, but there is no bold in Comments, I think?

Tony writes:

“In fact, the real democratic option is to give the people the ability to choose - a Referendum. That is the one democratic option, and whichever option comes out as that chosen, no one can see it is not "Vox Populi", the people of Jersey will have spoken. It may well be a result that the supporters of Option A do not like. It may be an option that I do not like. But it is the democratic option, in a very real sense of direct democracy, of actually letting the citizens decide, just as the Athenians did.”

With respect this is nonsense. Tony can be criticised for what I was sometimes teased for in the States – being too nice, too prepared to believe that people might be acting out of good motives. In fact, of course the choice being “given” to us in the referendum was not decided by us – it was decided by a group of 6 people. One, the chairman, had already said, before the Commission began its work, that he favoured a reduced Assembly of about 42 members with the Constables in the States. Funny, that turns out to be one of the options! One is a Constable. One is the son of a Constable and from other political straws in the wind a racing cert to favour the retention of the Constables.

In all three cases the REASONS for keeping the Constables in the States MAY have more to do with keeping the de facto party-of-government (otherwise known as the establishment) in power for ever. This is EXTREMELY UNHEALTHY if not downright dangerous. If the government never changes, then stagnation, and corruption have the right conditions to thrive. There is evidence of both.

Tony forgets that the Commission was taken over by the politicians. So the fact that 2 of the 3 options from which the population is going to “choose” include the keeping of the Constables LOOKS as if it is no accident. Curiously however, their own analysis shows, because it has to, that representation, under option 2, would be even more unfair, than it is now.

Tony cannot sweep this under the carpet by saying: ‘it is all so complicated, and by the way, one man’s meat is another man’s poison.’ The fact is that there is a STRUCTURAL over-representation of the country (the well-off) as opposed to the urban areas (the relatively poor). This is UNFAIR, on any measure. If it remains after the whole process is finished then one can fairly suppose that it was deliberate.

PART 2 of this post follows soon!

Daniel said...

The other thing which Tony omits entirely, and which commentators seem to largely ignore is the crucial question: WHAT ARE ELECTIONS FOR? Note that he quotes approvingly various authorities, e.g. Karl Popper as saying that the point of democracy is that the people can get rid of a government that they do not like. But not in Jersey!! . . . . . .

where the “government ALWAYS gets
in! How very convenient. Better get attached firmly to the coat-tails of the “government” people. Better not criticise them – may not get the next favour / contract whatever. Better keep my nose clean and not ask too many questions. I am not saying this happens. We have no idea. But, following CS Lewis view of human nature, or even following our instincts, we can be pretty sure that it does.

So, here is a solution, for example, that allows us the people to elect our government:

“The States could consist of 41 or 43 deputies elected every 4 years on a modified parish basis to ensure proportionality (see here: http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2009/28820-33544-892009.pdf, page 7); and 12 senators who are elected 6 every two years, and the Ministers are chosen from these 12. In this way the public choose their government.

To deal with the problem of too many candidates I suggest only those with States experience could stand.

The Deputies could also be elected in super-constituencies. There are pros and cons for both solutions. I have weighted them up for myself and concluded that the super-constituencies solution is better. But this debate has never been had. In fact NO debate on ANY key issue has been had, because of the way the Commission went about their work.

If this is not accepted we need a mechanism which gives the public the last word, we need the democratic accountability so sorely lacking at present. We could have the principle of recall of ANY policy, decision, or Minister built in to our government processes. There would have to be two pre-conditions. First a pretty high threshold of signatures required to force a referendum. And second, safeguards to ensure fair and equal coverage in the media.”

Child abuse, anyone? Yes I do believe there is a connection –between a frozen political system and the failure to protect our children over DECADES. There was never a new broom, there was never a fresh look. (And when there was, Stuart’s famous ‘I cannot stand here and say that I am confident about our ability to protect our vulnerable children,’ he was gone inside two months.

And then Tony ignores the arguments for STV and against First Past the Post which are completely conclusive. Here is what Dr. Renwick, one of their two expert advisers, told the Commission IN AUGUST, in a paper not published until recently (Why?):

"All in all, therefore, there can be no justification for maintaining multi-member plurality in Jersey in preference to STV. It is RARELY POSSIBLE for an electoral system expert to give such a DEFINITE JUDGEMENT: in most cases, one electoral system performs better on some criteria, while another performs better on other criteria; the final decision then depends on which of these criteria one values more. In Jersey’s case, however, ALL THE PLAUSIBLE CRITERIA point the same way: STV performs better on all criteria.”

So it is not a matter of – well, all solutions are just a pick and mix, we choose according to our gut feeling. In this case all the evidence points one way. And yet this absolutely vital reform, vital that is if you believe that the public should be represented as fairly and accurately as possible, has been pushed back to 2018 !!! Which is akin to saying - never

Can there be a clearer indication that this is not about DEMOCRACY at all.

Sometimes Tony’s impartial attitude – on the one hand - and on the other hand - is not appropriate for the reality.

TonyTheProf said...

I haven't ignored STV and first past the post. I think first past the post is past its sell by date, but I want to address that in a later posting.

I'd also like a firm commitment that if the Constables are kept in the States, the Alternative Vote system (recommended by the Commission in fact) comes to pass.

That way a contested would elect a candidate with the most votes.

I'm less partial than you might think, but in this posting I'm wearing my philosophy hat rather than my political hat!

Personally,my best preference in a perfect world would be Athenian style democracy, everybody votes on a proposal. That's why I like a Referendum.

Anonymous said...

An erudite post, yet one that is essentially conservative, albeit one that seeks to use the language of democracy.

Your point that:

“you cannot simply play a numbers game without respecting the heritage of the Island, and that Constables can supply an important and very different voice to the States.”

sums up that conservatism.

We all respect the history and heritage of the island but that does not mean we should be shackled by the past. Modern institutions need to develop and adapt to changing times. Those institutions that cannot adapt will find their demise sooner or later, though irrelevance or abolition.

The Parishes cannot be defended in terms of democratic standards. They are run by a small number of people that seek to exclude a wider participation (sometime called “The Parish Mafia”); essentially it is an exclusive club. In the past it was highly undemocratic as the franchise was limited to a few rich men.

As a method of electing a representative of the people to a legislature, it is an archaic residue. The present stasis says it all. Elections for Constable are infrequently contested (only 4 of 12 in 2011). They tend to play only minor roles in the States, seeing their primary duty to the Parish. In terms of social outlook they are conservative. Some would have no difficulty in becoming New Deputies in the wider electoral Districts, but others would struggle. This is essentially because their outlook is to parochial and their skills limited. A lifetime of directing traffic in the Honorary Police is not a recommendation for high office.

I would contest your assertion that “Constables can supply an important and very different voice to the States”. What voice, what opinion? The views of a Country Constable is rarely very different from a Country Deputy in that both can be deeply conservative. These are the “traditionalists”.

Its hardly fair to call Sam moralising and authoritarian. Just wait and see Option B supporters in action – then you will see such qualities in abundance.

The Referendum is a flawed tool, designed deliberately to ensure Option B prevails and Constables are retained. The government wants that. The Chief Minister has made clear that is his preference and we can assume it will be policy. A commission that had been truly independent would never have come up with such a recommendation. Clothier was credible in stating there should be only one category of States Member. Allowing three existing States Members on the commission made this outcome inevitable. This is precisely why a number of democrats sought to oppose it.

The referendum is being organised to legitimise the retention of Constables against potential challenges through the UK courts or Privy Council, a la Sark. It will be said that a significant or preferably strong endorsement shows that these deeply peculiar islanders are deeply attached to their highly undemocratic institutions. It also helps to keep the Bailiff in his seat as President of the States, despite the pesky doctrine of the separation of powers.

Essentially its all about the traditional elite designing ways to prolong their authority and privilege in the face of democratic challenges.

Oh, and don’t forget the media will be their usual partisan selves, backing Constables all the way in the Referendum.

TonyTheProf said...

Just a point, while I have made my own views clear elsewhere, the full sentence quoted is:

"Others think that you cannot simply play a numbers game without respecting the heritage of the Island, and that Constables can supply an important and very different voice to the States. "

Please don't leave out the "Others think that..." part of the quote; it is important.

Again I'm not actually asserting in this post that "Constables can supply an important and very different voice to the States"; I'm reporting the arguments made in favour of Option B.

What I am pointing out is that arguments about numbers are not the only ones, which can be seen in the submissions to the Commission. People don't just make decisions based on one particular argument, all sorts of other factors come in because they are not Mr Spock.

Incidentally "A lifetime of directing traffic in the Honorary Police is not a recommendation for high office" shows that you have very little idea of the duties of Honorary Police, and the training they receive. Why not join up and find out; then you can criticise from a position of knowledge.

Anonymous said...

I take it Iony, that you have joined the Honorary Police and therefore are speaking from a position of knowledge.

TonyTheProf said...

No, but I have friends who are. As a single parent, bringing up two boys and working, I don't have the time.

TonyTheProf said...

Being rather deaf (in both ears) is also a drawback when it comes to dealing with members of the public!

Anonymous said...

So you have no first hand knowledge of the training Honorary Police receive, thanks for clearing that up, I to have friends in the Honorary Police, small island innit.

Sam Mézec said...

I certainly take the valid point (and I do my best to address it in the blog) that it isn't just a numbers game and there a lot more to it.

But the "more to it" isn't the democratic side of the argument.

I contend that "equal suffrage" IS a numbers game. I've shown the numbers in my blog using the bar graph, and it irrefutably shows that Option B does not provide equal suffrage.

Now, I cannot imagine an argument for democracy that says "voters can and should be unequal". I think that equal suffrage is an objective democratic standard.

We talk about "choice" and how that is fundamental for democracy, but the mechanisms by which people exercise their power of choice have to be fixed so that each person is equal, otherwise one small group of people can artificially create a louder voice to shout over the larger group.

No system that allows that can be democratic. If Option B is won in the referendum it will not be democratic because it does not provide for a system that allows people to exercise choice.

When balancing that with the tradition arguments, I say that is is an argument of democracy vs traditionalism, because the arguments for other aspects at the expense of equal suffrage are not objective democratic arguments.

At the end of the day, Guernsey have a very similar electoral system to Option A, and they never bothered with a referendum over it because it was just seen as common sense. No one decries that as some some sort of betrayal of democracy. The referendum is only being had in this case because it's a safeguard against the States shelving the reforms like they did Clothier. The public endorsement is only sought to force the States to make a commitment, not because it's actually desirable for the public to vote for it on democratic grounds.

Also, fair enough for not being able to take part in the public debates, but I'll make sure I do my bit to plug your posts on the subject because despite disagreeing with you, it's really important for all sides of the argument to get a fair hearing so people can make up their minds.

TonyTheProf said...

"Now, I cannot imagine an argument for democracy that says voters can and should be unequal. I think that equal suffrage is an objective democratic standard."

Actually I can think of a hundred examples of where that should be the case, going back decades to the present day - although they would not necessarily all apply to Jersey, and - I hope to address that in a future blog. The damaging legacy of a reliance on equal suffrage for democracy has brought that about; it is a lesson the USA still has to take on board.


Daniel said...

Just a note of clarification.

In Daniel's post of 23rd January part 2, I wrote:

"To deal with the problem of too many candidates I suggest only those with States experience could stand."

I did not make clear that this refers only to the election for Senators.

Daniel said...

Tony writes (24 january 7.57

"it is a lesson the USA still has to take on board."

Hmm the USA. Hardly a paragon of democracy!!

There are now moves afoot to make the US presidential election result be a simple matter of "who got the most votes across the WHOLE country."

Suddenly at a stroke evry vote would count. The voters in solid blue or solid red states would count just as much as any other voter.

At the moment, only the voters in a handful of "swing states" actually matter, and it is they who decide the outcome of the election.

Exactly the same appies of course to UK Parliamentary elections - most voters simply do not matter. Very nice of themn to turn up, but whether the majority in some northern Labour fief is 12,000 or 15,000 has no bearing at all on the final result.

Likewise, a million or so Tory votes in Scotland are simply wasted votes, they make absolutely no difference at all.

I shall be interested in Tony's thoughts on "equal suffrage" in the USA when all the evidence is that parties in the USA ruthlessly gerry mander election boundaries to their heart's content to ensure the maximum possible seats for their party and to hell with democracy.

Take a look at Wikipedia's article re gerryumandering to see the extraordinary boundaries in some US states.


TonyTheProf said...

Actually, the point I will be making is that the "One Man, One Vote" principle (to use a quote, which of course is now sexist) can lead to spectacular failures of democracy, which is something the USA, and indeed the UK, has often failed to realise with Foreign Policy.

US elections have not only problems with districts, but also on the fact that (a) citizens are eligible to vote (b) Census returns give counts on populations, not all of whom are citizens. There's a problem matching the two, which is particularly acute in some locations.

Jersey also has this problem, but far less so as you don't need citizenship to vote, just a period of residency. So as a rule of thumb, population (excluding under-age) matches with voters. Nonetheless, most of the Parish statistics I've seen don't split the population that way.

Ugh, It's Him! said...

In the 50s, Neville Shute had an idea for weighting the voting system by starting with One Person One Vote, then adding extra votes for degrees, membership of professions, etc. I intend to re-read In The Wet, the polemical fantasy he floated the idea in sometime soon, as I have forgotten a lot of the details over the decades.

TonyTheProf said...

You might also like to read "The Dispossessed" by Ursula Le Guin which looks how an anarchist society might function.