On banana republics

Banana republic:

A small state that is politically unstable as a result of the domination of its economy by a single export controlled by foreign capital.

Australian voters were handed a new Prime Minister this month in yet another bloodless party coup.

That’s 8 in 11 years….

6 in 8 years….

5 in 5 years…

What on earth is going on?

Well, perhaps the first conclusion we can draw is that it is self-evident the office of Prime Minister can’t be very important to the national interest otherwise there’d be frantic debates about how greater stability might be achieved.

Any further conclusions will require more analysis. Hopefully what follows adds a new dimension of thinking to what currently passes as intelligent commentary in the Australian media.

The hypothesis we are putting forward today is that the revolving door on the Prime Minister’s office is a function of three factors in combination, two of which are systemic, the third is economic.

Reason One – Mandate Illusion

Australia is a member of a very exclusive but not particularly salubrious club; the group of nations with compulsory voting laws.

Here’s the global view (from Wiki);

Apart from those countries mainly being in the Southern Hemisphere, what else do they have in common?

To borrow an expression I can’t recall the source of, most have “green on their flag“. i.e. they are shitholes.

The list of countries that mandate voting by law is almost exclusively made up of places you’d think twice about visiting for a holiday, let alone considering emigrating to.

Why do countries such as Uruguay enforce laws to make people vote? Perhaps because the politicians are afraid of the result if the voters had a choice to stay away from the polls?

The result is a false mandate. 98% of Australians vote so the winning party convinces itself it has a mandate to govern.

Here’s an idea; hold a general election and announce that the law isn’t going to be enforced. Who believes more than 40% will be bothered to turn up and vote for a Prime Minister who is unlikely to last longer than 18 months before being rolled by their own party?

Reason Two – Voting Complexity

So, you’ve arrived at the polling booth, under the threat of a fine, what are your voting choices?

Here’s an example from an internet search;

Believe it or not, but this is a simple example. Some can be as wide as 2 pages of A4 in landscape.

You now have two options to complete the form; “above or below the line”.

Marking your choices “below the line” requires you to number at least 12 candidates in order of preference. Marking “above the line”, requires 6 choices.

What you are, in effect, doing by choosing the simpler option is outsourcing your secondary choices to the 6 candidates who will allocate these to whomever they’ve already made a deal with should they be elected.

Of course, nobody wants to hang around in a school hall on a weekend writing War and Peace on a voting form so 95% choose the outsourcing option.

For an example of what can happen with this complex system of preferential side deals, research the Australian Motoring Enthusiasts Party.

This is democracy, Jim, but not as we know it.

Reason Three – The Miracle Economy has Made Australians (and the Australian political class) Fat and Happy

There’s not been a recession in Australia since 1992. Well done Australia! Although some unkind commentators might suggest this stellar run of the economy might have more to do with the economic foresight of geological forces laying down iron ore under the Australian earth several million years ago than the careful and prudential management of modern politicians.

Regardless of the cause, this has produced marvellous levels of national and personal prosperity for the population. Many issues that in other countries would be the source of great public debate and contention have simply had money thrown at them as the solution in Australia.

The net result; there’s not much fundamentally wrong in Australia, people aren’t dying of hunger, unemployment is down to levels that can be explained by the IQ bell curve.

Politicians, therefore, feel no sense of urgency or need to concentrate on bigger issues other than their continued ability to use publicly-funded chauffeur-driven cars and expense overseas “research visits”.

Self-absorbed navel-gazing, in other words.

Bill’s Opinion

Australia’s political system is fundamentally dysfunctional whilst having the illusion of an engaged voting population.

To find a solution requires acceptance of the possibility that compulsory voting and a Byzantine voting form outsourced to politicians to complete are not signs of a healthy democracy and, in fact, can mask the symptoms of a disengaged population.

The political class are simply responding to the opportunity to avoid doing their job as one would expect in any other country. To accuse them of lethargy and venality is to misunderstand the nature of those who would seek office.

A banana republic indeed.

4 Replies to “On banana republics”

  1. You assume early on that political stability (in terms of partisan leadership) is something to be desired. As the US has proven it can result in “Alabama tick” bureaucracy and ridiculously outmoded political parties that represent fewer and fewer people due to the monolithic nature of democans and republicrats. I remain unconvinced that Trump and every other recent president starting their re-election bid before they’ve taken their first shit in the White House is good for our constitutional republic’s health.

    I had no idea voting was compulsory in a modern western nation. I’m legitimately shocked.

    1. Political stability is probably desired by most, I assume.
      Personally, I like the idea of governments permanently in stasis; they are less likely to be implementing new ways to interfere in our lives.
      Belgium went without a government for 549 days a couple of years ago.
      Lucky sods.

  2. On most of those countries being in the southern hemisphere, I have doubts. Billy might be right if the metric is land area (it looks close). But on country count it’s not right. For population, I am doubtful.

    On Byzantine voting (if not actual complexity), I find against the EU Parliament election process in the UK. The whole thing works on (well maybe off) party lists – which I hate. Last time round, as usual, I got 1 vote. This for 12 seats in the parliament, around 40 political parties (what we actually vote for – with that one vote) and over 130 candidates – who might as well be fifth-rate film characters (say storm troopers in Star Wars) for all their relevance outside the political parties themselves.

    Back to Australia…

    I have always favoured the idea of annual elections: the only policy of The Chartists (founded 1838) that has so far failed to become UK law. The way Australia is going, maybe the people there should call for themselves to decide on their Prime Minister – by going annual.

    Best regards

    1. Jury Service is a great precedent Australia could use to select leaders. Randomly picked from the Electoral Roll with a quick criminal records check.
      Imagine the cost avoidance…..

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