Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Politics and Short-Termism : possible fix

Posted by Dave Bath on 2007-11-09

Previously I’ve discussed how to create long-termism of directors and senior executives in business.

Different methods are required to improve the performance of politicians.

The conflict between the interests of politicians and the nations is as follows:

  • Short terms with election timing determined by politicians promote short-termism.
  • Long fixed terms decrease the responsiveness to the electorate and the accountability of politicians.

Here is a possible way of addressing this dilemma:

  • Terms for individual politicians are increased, while a corresponding percentage of electorates are decided annually.  It probably doesn’t matter much whether it is 10 year terms and 10% of the electorates, or 5 year terms and 20%.
  • Annual ostracism voting would provide control over individual politicians, to avoid poor performance that would otherwise be encouraged at the start of their individual long terms.

Obviously, the independent electoral commission would determine the rotation of electorates, and the auditor general can report data that would expose any specific pork-barrelling in the electorates due for polls.  If any readers perceive pitfalls, perhaps they can suggest means to overcome them, or indeed, come up with a better solution to the fundamental dilemma that is so counterproductive to the national interest.

Such innovations could be seen as radical, but …

  • a rolling election is merely a refinement of our existing Senate system (6 year terms, 50% election every 3 years) and much less radical than Australia’s invention of preferential voting, and
  • ostracism was an important facilitator of the first democracies – abolished by rising empires and absolute monarchy, and never re-instituted when democracy made a come-back.

After all, the electoral cycle is barely 2.5% of our lifespan, shorter than the average marriage, yet the impact of such short-termism affects not only our own lives, but those of our children and grandchildren.


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