We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

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Samizdata quote of the day

I think MPs should have their personal tax rate depend on how often they vote for new legislation… think of it as a ‘binge legislation tax’ to encourage more responsible legislative behaviour and finance the social cost of their boundless interference in every aspect of other people’s lives

Perry de Havilland

24 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Alsadius

    Good idea, but nobody would think that voting for it was worth the money.

  • Ian F4

    Nice idea, but I don’t think public servants should pay tax at all, just reduce their salaries accordingly and save on the pointless administration of shuffling money back and forth with no net gain.

  • nice idea, at least some people are using their brains

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Personally, I think politicians should only serve two terms- the second term should be in jail!

  • Grumpy Old Man

    Just convert the HoP into a max. security prison – saves time and money in the long run :)

  • bloke in spain

    @ Grumpy Old Man
    What a remarkably cheap solution.
    Just turn all the multiple layers of security round so they face in not out.
    Job done.

  • the other rob

    ‘Nuke’ et al – the great Terry Pratchett covered that in his novel “The Last Continent” where, in the Discworld’s version of Australia, all politicians were thrown into jail as soon as they were elected because “it saves time”.

    More seriously, I agree with your term limits sentiment. One of the root causes of the expansionist state is people making a career out of seeking and holding elected office. Better that it be seen as a somewhat unpleasant duty, a bit like jury service.

  • Richard Thomas

    TOR, further to that, perhaps the term limit should be per individual and not per position.

  • PaulH

    As an alternative perhaps each MP could pay from their own pockets to have a copy of the tax code (including all relevant precedents, guidelines, etc) printed and mailed to each constituent every year? It might encourage them in the right direction.

  • Colin

    Each year sum the words in all bills enacted that year and deduct this amount in pounds from the legislators’ salaries.

  • lucklucky

    Good idea.

  • Rich Rostrom

    So much per affirmative vote?

    Is the charge the same for a narrowly targeted bill that, say, prohibits importation of livestock known to be infected with a recently discovered disease, and a thousand-page omnibus monstrosity like the Obamacare bill?

    The suggestion has been made that the charge should be be wordage. That’s easily defeated – don’t include specific provisions, just generalized language like “reasonable”, “necessary”, and “appropriate” while delegating the creation of actual provisions to the executiveb branch.

    Also note that the value of a targeted bill to some economic special interest will almost certainly exceed any legislator’s salary by orders of magnitude. Those who benefit will find ways to compensate their benefactors for any loss of pay.

  • Chuckles

    I prefer the suggestion that the costs of any new legislation or funding proposal should be paid for out the pockets of those those voting in favour of it.
    After an agreed interval a referendum could be held on the legislation. If it is found to be of benefit, the costs would be refunded, if not they are forfeit, and the legislation automatically repealed.

  • Tedd

    Better that it be seen as a somewhat unpleasant duty, a bit like jury service.

    Which reminds me of an interesting question that’s been in the back of my mind for a while. Why do we elect legislators? Why not just have legislator duty by lottery, the same way we have jury duty? It seems to me that would better represent the will of the majority than a vote typically does, solve the incumbency/professional-legislator problem, reduce or eliminate the influence of parties, and probably result in less and simpler legislation.

  • Tedd

    Did I just ask and answer my own question?

  • Ian F4

    @Tedd.

    When I first did jury service, during the many boring hours waiting to be selected I struck up a conversation with a young lady who bore a necklace containing the letters S-A-L-L-Y.

    When I said something that assumed her name was Sally she said it wasn’t. I then asked why she was wearing a necklace with “Sally” on it, she said it belonged to her sister but she liked it instead and had borrowed it.

    On that day I swore I would do as much as possible to avoid ending up in court having a “Sally” judge me.

  • Tedd

    On that day I swore I would do as much as possible to avoid ending up in court having a “Sally” judge me.

    Democracies are currently being run by the kind of people who ran for student’s council in high school, with predictable results. I have more faith in random chance.

  • 'Nuke' Gray

    Tedd, since they would all only have one term, I believe, then the impetus for lucky legislators would be to maximize their short-term gain, and to China with long-term planning!

  • thefrollickingmole

    My solution is a little different.

    No new legislation unless 2 sets of old statutes are removed from the books.

    Would see less “land rights for gay disabled dolphins” and more substance.

  • the other rob

    perhaps the term limit should be per individual and not per position

    Richard – most certainly. The alternative would be a merry-go-round where the political classes simply swapped titles every few years.

    then the impetus for lucky legislators would be to maximize their short-term gain

    Nuke – it’s certainly true that the sort of people that we see holding elected office today would feel an imperative to fill their boots while they could. No sane person would expend all of the time, effort and treasure required to secure such a position without the prospect of some reward.

    But I think the point is that in the system envisioned by Tedd, we wouldn’t be dealing with such people as a rule; rather we’d encounter them only when they were selected by random chance according to their distribution throughout the population as a whole.

    It pleases me to believe that, on the whole, most individuals are decent people, who could be relied upon to serve honourably and the kleptocrats who chase office today are outliers, not a representative sample.

  • Ian Bennett

    I believe it was Winston Churchill who said that the best argumnent against democracy is a ten-minute conversation with an average voter. If they vote stupidly, will they not legislate stupidly?

  • nemesis

    I believe when Nicholas Ridley was first elected to Parliament, he was asked what he intended to do, he replied “as little as possible”.

  • the other rob

    If they vote stupidly, will they not legislate stupidly?

    Ian Bennett – Two possible replies come to mind. The flippant one is “Better stupidity than calculated malice.”

    More seriously, you have indeed identified a very real problem; namely who gets to define what is “stupid”? Any attempt to revert to citizen legislators, in place of the current incumbents and their ilk, faces the problem of the entrenched career bureaucracy. Unelected apparatchiks will, at the very least, seek to convince our unsullied “jury service legislators” that attempting to live within our means is incredibly stupid, given the current $crisis and it would be much more intelligent to fully fund the expansion of $department, lest a Grue eat us or something.

    The above is, of course, a rather simplistic caricature but it illustrates a point which I feel is important. The fact that an established career bureaucracy is well placed to thwart the efforts of the citizenry to roll back state plunder and rapine is not, in point of fact, a persuasive argument against citizen legislators. Rather it’s an argument for taking a very sharp axe to the bureaucracies.

  • Tedd

    But I think the point is that in the system envisioned by Tedd, we wouldn’t be dealing with such people as a rule…

    That’s true, but it’s not the advantage I had in mind. I’m more of a believer in opportunities and motivations as explanations for people’s behaviour than that they are “good” or “bad.” The advantage of randomly selecting legislators is that they would have very little opportunity to personally benefit from the experience.

    I probably didn’t explain this part above, but the selection process would be re-played for each session of the legislature. In other words, making a career of being a legislator would be impossible, as would gaining an electoral advantage by swaying legislation to benefit your constituents (since there would be no election).

    Of course, there are down sides. You probably wouldn’t be able to have the ministerial system that you have in parliamentary democracies. The permanent bureaucracy would make mincemeat of each new minister. (Try watching re-runs of Yes Minister if you have trouble envisioning how that would work.) I think you’d pretty much have to have an executive office that was separate from the legislature and responsible for the day-to-day administration of the government, as most republics have. And that executive officer would most likely have to be elected, so you wouldn’t completely escape elections and their problems. But, with proper separation of powers, you could at least gain the advantages for the legislature.