Thursday, April 28, 2011

AV referendum: it's the results, stupid!

Winston Churchill said "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." But, that observation has had little impact on the debate about which voting system to support in the forthcoming referendum. That is to say, there is much discussion about which voting system better represents the will of the people, or would give us strong versus weak governments, or would make our MPs work harder. But those us who support AV should address the possibility that the present voting system may, despite the objections, actually produce good outcomes. Where "good outcomes" does not mean strong governments or representative governments, rather it means social welfare.

At the risk of coming on like David Cameron, my general impression is that the current system has let us down. Right now, being a citizen of the UK makes me feel like a shareholder of a company that is underperforming, and I'm watching its price steadily go down. My sense is that we're getting things wrong where other countries are getting them right. This is not the place to review examples in detail— in contrast to David Cameron I'll simply test out this claim by taking a look at the obvious evidence: our performance in quality-of life rankings. The results do not reflect well on the status quo!

2007: down 2 places to 17th; 2010: down 5 places to 25th; 2009: quality of life poor relative to other EU countries 2009: child poverty: European league table: The UK came 24th, well below countries of similar affluence (despite 10 years of a Govt that supposedly tried to improve it!) 2008: Zut! France leapfrogs UK in economic table

What we are seeing here is not just poor performance, but poor and worsening performance. So you can't just blame the weather! The obvious culprit is bad public policy. AV offers a genuine change to the system by which the electorate gets to influence public policy. The time has come to vote for Churchill, not Cameron.

(Added 6.5.11: OK I admit it, the reason why Britain is declining is that we just have a lower average IQ than most other places.)

(Added 6.6.11: UK slipping down the global rankings, Centre for Policy Studies warns.)

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