Saturday, August 27, 2011

Direct Democracy Fails British Columbia

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, direct democracy doesn't work. With apologies to Kent Brockman, the result of the HST referendum demonstrates why direct democracy is a terrible way to determine public policy. The argument here is not necessarily about the HST itself. I happen to like the idea. I think it creates a simpler and less obtuse business environment. That's actually not the point. The point is that governments will have to do unpopular things in the course of doing what is best for the long term success of the country, province or city. The GST is an excellent example. Extremely unpopular when it was introduced and still unpopular today, the GST is a major contributing factor to Canada's relative fiscal strength today and our fiscal strength during the Chretien and Martin governments. In fact, it was Stephen Harper's cuts to the GST which first compromised our surplus position. If the people had been able to vote directly, the GST would never have been introduced, would have been recalled in 1993 and every year subsequent.

We elect governments because a) 34 million people can't come to agreements in any sort of town hall way and b) because we don't have the time to govern. Canadians are too busy working and taking care of their families to consider the long term fiscal and economic implications of doing something like scrapping the HST. We pay our politicians and civil servants to study these things and come to a decision. Yes, periodically we choose which path we want the government to be on, but we can't as a people make the little calls along the way. British Columbians may be celebrating the death of the HST but they should take a long hard look at their cousins in California before they go too far down this path. People, if asked directly will almost always vote for lower taxes and better services. This is a path that leads only to fiscal ruin. We elect governments to make the tough choices necessary to get to a better future. If they fail in that task, vote them out and elect somebody who will undo the damage. There was no reason the NDP couldn't have run on this platform, won and then repealed the HST. However, they would have done that knowing that they would be held responsible for the ensuing budget deficits and fiscal problems that. No one will hold the people of BC responsible for their blunder. Democracy without any responsibility for bad action leads only to chaos.


Fred from BC said...

I believe you missed the point we were trying to make. It's not about the HST itself (which is, in fact, the best way to go and yes, we know that)'s about the government LYING to us about it during the last election. For that reason and that reason only I voted it down, and I would do so again. We sent a clear message to politicians not just in BC but all across the country.

Skinny Dipper said...

My guess is that no matter which government runs BC after 2013, it will get rid of the old HST and replace it with a new-style PST with on goods that are taxed like the GST. The new tax will look like the HST; it just won't be called the HST. It might be one or two percentage points lower so as to placate the voters.

There is nothing wrong with having an HST. However, based on voting results, the high income ridings of BC like Point Grey supported the HST; the lower income ridings opposed it. Why? Taxes on income can be made progressive so that the poor pay little income tax while the rich pay a lot. As for taxes on consumption like the HST, everyone pays about the same rate. The tax credits do not help the poor as they may pay little to no income tax already. Overall, the rich pay less tax through consumption taxs than through income tax; the poor pay more.

It is generally good economic policy to have a few different taxes so that the government can have a stable tax base. The problem for any government is deciding to balance how much income and consumption tax someone should pay. Of course, different tax policies affect the economy in different ways even as the government tries to collect the same amount of taxes. In the real world, taxes are not fixed revenues for the government. Instead they are variables.

Anonymous said...

The people of Canada run the show here.

Not the criminal politicians.

I don't know what world you live in , but we need elections for senators, police chiefs, prosecutors and all officials who live off the dole.

Leaving my future up to a bunch of clowns I will never even meet, is tyrannical.

Fjperry said...

No one wants to seem opposed to "democracy". However, direct democracy is full of problems. You have summed up the case very well

normal dude said...

Anonymous I'm not sure what world you live on because you most certainly don't understand this one. I'm pretty sure the same anonymous that educated on the dole by Kirbycairo on another blog.

kirbycairo said...

Indeed normal dude -- the same trolling Anonymous, the same blinkered ignorance and failure to understand how democracy must work in order to avoid the barbarism that so many rightwingers secretly desire.

And Aaron, I generally agree with you on the problems of direct democracy and the dangers of leaving certain kinds of decisions to the so-called majority - because there are certain principles that must stand above general opinion. Direct democracy would have led, for example, to a long continuation of slavery, the illegality of homosexuality, the banning of interracial marriages etc.

However, as sometimes happens, there are special cases (ones that don't involve minority rights) in which it is important for the people to be able to send a message to a government which has systematically deceived the population.

However, it can only be rare occasions because if Anonymous knew anything about letting democracy become involved in such things as police chiefs and judges, etc, he would know the remarkable corruption to which such a practice leads. I lived half my life in the States and have seen it first hand.

Anonymous said...

The governmnet is "OF THE PEOPLE" and "FOR THE PEOPLE".

What world you clowns live in?

Are you marxist?

Anonymous said...

"Direct democracy would have led, for example, to a long continuation of slavery, the illegality of homosexuality, the banning of interracial marriages etc.

Without American Republicanism you would have no rights, let alone the ones above.

America has done more for freedom and human rights than anyone or anything.

True democracy means the people decide their future, not some career politicians living on the dole.

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