Less is more

Bryce Edwards makes the case for less, not more, state intervention in the democratic process.

It is not commonly realised that the US political system is one of the most highly regulated in the western world. Considerable regulations have been developed in order, ostensibly, to ensure a level playing field in elections. Of course, no such level playing field can be created from the huge restrictions on political activity that these state interventions impose.

By contrast, the New Zealand electoral system has historically been relatively laissez faire, with few state impediments to political activity. New Zealand political parties have been generally regarded as private organisations, and hence have had little obligation to report upon their internal affairs. Unfortunately, New Zealand has recently been shifting towards the American system of intense political regulation.

… The 1986 New Zealand Royal Commission on the Electoral System (RCES) anticipated the problems of the state-party relationship: ‘we recognise that there are dangers inherent in excessive State intervention in the democratic process. If taken too far, controls may represent an unjustifiable intrusion on the freedom of individuals, groups, political parties and candidates’ (RCES, 1986: p.185). Arguably, the regulation of politics has now been taken too far in New Zealand. And the consequences are not just a reduction in political liberty, but also many other apparently unintended consequences, including the creation of barriers to new political parties entering Parliament, and a reduction in the ability of the public to participate in politics.

In a perverse way, modern reforms actually exacerbate many of the problems they were intended to solve, as well as creating new problems along the way. Primarily, state intervention simply distorts political behaviour. As elsewhere, the reforms may be well intended but essentially, the cure of political regulation ends up being worse than the disease of financial scandal.

Read the full article.  It’s very good.

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