[EM] Stable PR governments

Blake Cretney bcretney at postmark.net
Sun Aug 22 12:19:33 PDT 1999

Let me suggest a subject that I don't think has received enough
discussion on this list.  That is, given a legislature that is elected
by PR, or for some other reason does not have a single, homogenous
majority faction, what laws, procedures and conventions are necessary
for such a body to effectively govern.

Here are some suggestions I have.  The purpose of these suggestions
is to move away from the governing coalition type of government, to
one which allows a legislative majority to decide on any particular
point, and where cabinet is a servant of the legislature, instead of
the other way around.

* Fixed terms

Election dates should be fixed and outside the control of the
legislature.  Often it is suggested that the legislature or cabinet
needs to be able to call an early election to resolve an impasse in
the legislature.  My response is that such a rule has the opposite
effect to that intended.  In general, as the opinions of voters
change, it will frequently occur that a majority, or near majority in
the legislature see a new election as likely to increase their
standing.  If an impasse triggers an election, they have good reason
to create an impasse.  If cabinet must be defeated on a major bill,
they will seek an opportunity.  Also, if an early election does occur,
it is not guaranteed to remedy the situation, and frequently doesn't. 
Furthermore, fixed terms have been used in PR municipalities, and some
PR countries, such as Norway, without any obvious increase in
governmental ineffectiveness over other PR jurisdictions.

* Condorcet methods

Most political institutions seem designed under the principle that
legislatures cannot fill positions through election.  Instead, it
falls upon a Prime Minister or President to make all appointments. 
After all, many of the designers of these institutions were probably
unaware of methods other than plurality.  Because this method is so
capricious, a legislature would likely come into constant conflict
with its own appointments.  However, we now know about Condorcet
completion methods which give a much better opportunity for group
decision making.

* Elections for Ministers, Prime Minister

If cabinet positions, including Prime Minister are elected by the
legislature, it is not necessary to rely on coalitions to form
governments, and their absence does not cause instability.  However,
if all these positions were filled by members of the legislature, the
result would be tremendous jealousy as parties counted the number of
their members in cabinet, and expressed outrage at the perceived
over-representation of small central parties.  I suggest, therefore,
that all cabinet positions be filled by people outside the
legislature, who would be able to act in a less partisan way.  These
cabinet members could be replaced by the legislature, and would act on
its behalf.

* Proportional committees

The various departments should be overseen by committees.  These
committees should be elected by the legislature using a PR method. 
They would submit bills for its approval, and oversee the actions of
the ministers.  A bill that received majority support in committee
would be very likely to pass the legislature as a whole.

* Restrictions on benefits

Proportionality should be the governing principle of the legislature
in all respects.  There should be no "Governing Party" or "Official
Opposition" with special benefits, money, or time allotment.

Blake Cretney
See the EM Resource:  http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/harrow/124
My Path voting Site:  http://www.fortunecity.com/meltingpot/harrow/124/path

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