Delta Politics

2:51 PM / Posted by David Hartery /

A conundrum that faces many household brands is the problem of becoming generic. Once use of a certain brand name becomes synonymous with an item then it cannot enforce copyright for that usage. Google valiantly try to get people to calling searching the web "using Google" instead of "googling it". The Xerox company has consigned itself to defeat in its bid to stop people referring to photocopying as Xeroxing. Any sort of SUV you see in Ireland is referred to as a Jeep.

The movement for change has hit a similar speedbump. The word change is a genericised brand now. The Tories trumpeted "Change" in the recent general election, but what do they mean? A different party in charge? That certainly is a change, but surely is implied in voting for the Tories. So it is an idea of making a tangible difference to every voters life. Presumably a positive change, since all the banners looked so sunny. But how real is change in politics? How do you provide a sense of difference that the voting public will acknowledge to help over come the strengthening "anti-politics" that is gripping everywhere.

What can we do to make politics better? Well, the little formula I posted at the top of the page may be a joke, but it is also a good explanation tool. The ideal political system to enact some form of change. Proportionality, incentives and desire.

As pointed out in a wonderful piece in the Irish Times[1] while there are continued complaints about issues such as the blasphemy law and, possibly more importantly, the rights of the child; there is a massive amount of political apathy towards pushing for changes. Why is this?

Well, I strongly believe it is a lack of accountability for decision making. This blog is supposed to have some public policy leanings and here is the first bit: We need create incentives for free voting. I would be in favour of a right of recall. Not just for politicians caught "with their hands in the till" but for politicians who vote along party lines for things that their constituency deems unconscionable. There was much made of Theresa May's voting record on gay rights (it's not good) but at least such a thing exists. In Ireland it seems that people don't ever stand up for what they believe in, content to obey the party whip. What is the point in proportional representation when it is just proportional and they forget about the representation? Keeping voting records of members of the Dail would be a big step forward, so you could see exactly what your local TDs were voting on your behalf. Yes, it's open to abuse, with racist constituencies holding their TD to ransom in order to extract xenophobic legislation, but I would have more faith in people than to think that would actually happen. Even if it did; that's democracy in action, no matter how base.

Free voting of politicians, with elected representatives doing what they think is right, rather than what the party tell them is a fundamental tenet of republican ideology. The founding fathers of the USA feared partisan entrenchment stagnating politics. Proportional representation is the means by which we get the representation the people want. Only through a combination of the two of these can we get a change that people want and not change for changes sake. The speed bumps that such developments will have stem from the growing anti-politics movement, symbolised by what is below the divide line in my pretend equation. Because such divisions could be harmful to the political system, if left to fester. I think steps need to be taken to increase the credibility of Irish politics.

It may be just a small change in politics, but hopefully if we do have change; we could have useful change in politics. And because the word change has lost all meaning in the modern world (and possibly in that last sentence), perhaps we could call it: Delta Politics.

Finally, on a related note:

Stephen Kinsella, a lecturer in Economics in UL, wrote a paper recently[2], which observed that often constitutional changes lead to suboptimal outcomes. I thought it was extremely interesting and reminded me of a quote from Mary Robinson when she was a senator, regarding Article 40.3.3:

"The basic flaw in this Amendment is that it is so uncertain in its scope and so potentially contradictory in its meaning and so potentially damaging to existing practices in the area of family planning and medical treatment…”
I think that Constitutional reform is something that should be handled with grave respect indeed.
[2] Stephen Kinsella - Does Ireland need constitutional reform?


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