Federal & State politicians

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.

12 thoughts on “Federal & State politicians

  1. It would be far easier, I think, if we simply revert to constitutional federalism, as opposed to this horrendous political federalism we now have, and limit the power of the Cth to that which is actually stated in s.51!

  2. But what would our High Court Judges do, if they couldn’t interpret things so the Commies get more power? What would be their excuse for getting their salary?

  3. This makes sense in theory but judging by the performance of those state politicians who have moved into the federal arena, I’m not sure it will help. I’m struggling to think of one (and quite a few have made the move) who have lifted the quality of federal parliament.

    State appointed Senators would certainly increase the focus on States rights and perhaps reverse the centralist trend, but I wouldn’t expect the quality of representation to improve. The party machines would still decide.

  4. And, of course, the Labor side has specialised in turning time-serving hacks into Federal Ministers. That’s how that union rowdy, R. Hawke, got his seat- connections. When no-one else wanted the job, he was shoved into the PM position, which was quite beyond his competency level, until Keating took over. That’s why such a modest man was given such a rousing reception in the conference- they knew they done him wrong, and wanted to make up for it.

  5. Given the magic wand for an afternoon I’d revoke the power of state and national governments to levy taxes and I’d pass that power entirely to local government. Each local government would have an obligation to give a constitutionally fixed proportion of their tax revenue to the state and national government.

    I like the idea of making the senate a house of state appointees. However it isn’t new.

  6. “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.”

    Yes, the best *politicians* end up at the top. Look at Rudd; fantastic politician and an absolute c*nt. Hayek talked about this in the Road to Serfdom of course. Getting these arseholes as local as possible would be an improvement. I think the trend is in the opposite direction though (of course) and it’s hard to convince others that this is a good idea – the Australian state governments being largely incompetent and corrupt doesn’t help. A lot of people want state government abolished completely.

  7. Ostralion – Having the HC appointed by the states not the Cth is one possible suggestion…

  8. 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.

    Okay I’ve pondered this one and I think I’ll reject it. The benefits don’t seem to stack up and it would ultimately become a real insiders game. Are there any such precedents elsewhere?

    Also why are you so keen to engineer an interest in state politics? Politics should be boring.

  9. Nah, the best way to engage people is to have time-share government. Here’s how it could work-
    When you choose to enlist as a citizen in the county of your residence, you work in Community service through-out 11 months of the year (Fireman, road patrols, whatever), and for one month of the year, you and every other citizen who enrolled in the same month become the government of the county.
    Since the county firearms are spread around the whole population, and not just in your month, your group couldn’t stage a coup. However, you could adjust existing, and pass new, laws. And the county could have an upper house, composed of 12 people, one from each month, to carry the month’s business forward, and protect your group’s interests.
    As for dealing with other counties, why not hire PR firms when they are needed?
    The revenue for the county could come from issuing licences to vehicles to use the roads and public spaces of the county, AND you could have interservice contests in place of sports, and charge people to attend matches.
    Just get rid of politicians, and ‘representative’ democracy, and let us all have a fair share of the governmental sauce!

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