Monday, June 4, 2012

Give our MP's something to do!

Recently I have had interesting chats with some friends who happen to be members of our judiciary.  They have had a host of complaints, including such things as the fact that the Johannesburg courts have been under jackhammers and dust for something like three years.  The imposition of incompetent senior judges hasn't hloped helped either.

But their greatest gripe is reserved for the plethora of laws that are being passed.  Our legislature sits, and its members have nothing better to do than to pass laws. To while away the time, they do just that.  Law follows law, often badly drafted, often in conflict with earlier laws, often in conflict with our own Constitution, an unending flood of poor legislation.

Then, of course, the civil service has its work cut out to draw up the regulations required to implement the laws. The regulations suffer from the same flaws as the laws themselves. We land up with a morass in which everything is regulated and nothing is accomplished.

The origin of this state of affairs is not difficult to find.  We have proportional representation in Parliament. This means that obeying the party whips is far more important than anything else.  In days gone by, you needed to pay attention to your constituency.  It was they who got you elected. Most of your time was spent away from Parliament and its work of passing laws. 

Now you merely need to fight your way up a list, and all the benefits of being a legislator are yours. So of course you legislate diligently - that way you will progress up the list, and be more secure in your sinecure.

One of the best bits of political advice I ever received was that democracy was great, but the Westminster system missed the greatest democratic opportunity. It lacked giving people the right to vote for what they were going to vote for.  When your choice is merely a party, and you have to live with the chosen party for at least four years, politics is damned dull.  When you have to decide how much you are prepared to pay the street cleaner or your children's teachers or for the street lights to stay on after midnight, then you become much more involved.  

And when you are involved, then anyone who hopes to represent you is also involved - with you! He or she doesn't have time to waste drawing up bad laws. What bliss it must be! 

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