It seems to be that people with the most talent tend to go to federal politics. I can understand this. Not only does federal politics come with a higher profile and sexy issues like defence and foreign affairs, but (and I think this is crucial) it is the federal government that controls the money, and consequently they are ultimately in control of how things work in this country. The power of state governments has been declining and power has become ever more centralised.
I think the solution is to decentralise the revenue-raising job to state governments. I think this would shift the balance of power back to the states, and make the federal government dependent on state decisions. We would then end up with more competent states and greater jurisdictional competition.
But it’s hard to convince the federal government (or any government) to give up power.
So I was thinking of alternative ways to re-engage people with state politics. One option would be to require all federal parliamentarians to have already served as a state parliamentarian.
This idea occured to me when I was listening to a ReasonTV interview with Glenn “instapundit” Reynolds. Reynolds suggested that Sarah Palin was thrown too quickly into the “big time” and it would have been better if she’d slowly worked her way up from state politics to federal politics and then a go at the white house. The idea was that as a person works their way up through the political ladder, the worst of the worst (hopefully) get weeded out and the people who make it to the top tend to have some experience.
One consequence of this is that the more competent politicians would be forced to be involved in state politics. Not only could this improve the quality of state politics, it may also increase the amount of respect (and understanding) that federal politicians have for state’s rights.
Another option would be to have the State parliaments appoint the members of the federal senate. Alternatively, people could still vote for their federal senators, but only from among current (or previous) state politicians.