June 03, 2011

Referism misunderstood?

Richard says I misunderstood referism. I wrote that
As I understand Richard North's idea of referism, the state's budget would be subject to an annual referendum.
Richard has written that
Referism is a political philosophy which states that, in the relationship between the British people and their governments, the people should be in control. The state is the servant not the master. Control is primarily achieved by submitting annual state budgets to the people for approval, via referendums. The catchphrase is: "it's our money and we decide". Governments are thereby forced to refer to the people for their funding, hence the term "referism".
And in the referism comments thread he wrote on 9 May that
If the electorate refuse the budget, then we have a full-blown political crisis ... what fun! Logically, the referendum would then have to be held on a recast budget ... unless there is provision for an emergency budget and the government elects to work with that. A government could, instead, decide to resign and trigger a general election ... thereby giving the people the effective power of a mid-term vote of confidence.

I would anticipate budget rejections being very rare. One would assume the referendum would have a significant deterrent effect.
That won't work. Voters aren't that interested, voters will be scared, how do they make clear which parts of the budget they like and which parts they don't? If they think they may lose the items of spending they like, they will probably vote for the budget.

I favour smaller government, greater accountability etc. But this instrument looks too blunt to deliver them.

Instead let's have binding referenda on issues which citizens choose because those issues are important to them and the political establishment is out of step.

I'd like us to liberate ourselves from the EU. A referendum on that would have a good chance of carrying.

(Actually I'd like England to secede from the UK too, leaving Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to subsidise each other. With our secession we would also be walking away from the UK's EU membership. But I doubt there's public appetite for this ... yet.)

My objection is not to the underlying philosophy that government should be servants of the people. They are not, and of course they should be.

But annual budget referenda just won't deliver that.


Stewart Griffin said...

"Governments are thereby forced to refer to the people for their funding"

When you consider that protests and riots are common in the face of cuts and rare in response to overspending it is hard to see how this mechanism would help much.

On that theme: many people discussing the US debt ceiling debate commented that the Republicans should avoid blocking an increase as it would make them look responsible for closed services.

Paul said...

Besides which, the apparent non-apprehension that the political and media establishment effectively controls the outcome of any election by a kind of mass-hypnosis that is all to easy for them is too naive to be genuine.

But then, as long as there is a debate, there is hype - which I fear is the whole purpose. On that note, I leave the arena and won't return (unless it is really necessary).

Paul said...

(p.s. Sorry about the schoolboy spelling error)

William Gruff said...

I've just discovered your blog thanks to Richard North and am delighted to have found you. You make some thought provoking criticisms of Referism which are invaluable in developing the concept.

I'm working, slowly, on an essay on the subject, which I will publish at some point, and your criticisms allude to and adumbrate factors that have occurred to me, although I disagree with you that they are an objection to Referism.

I am going to add you to my blogroll, for all that may be worth.

John Page said...

Hi, William, and welcome ... there, that wasn't gruff at all.

Let me know which of your blogs you post your referism piece in.

Paul, I think I know what you mean ... then I reread it and I'm not so sure :)

Stewart, great point, which I hadn't thought of and will draw on in my next post on referism.

subrosa said...

John, why on earth would Scotland want to continue with Union with N Ireland and Wales?

Scotland has led the debate about independence and will continue to do so until the matter is resolved by the Scots.

I fear your comment conveys the myth that England pays for us up here. Let's wait and see how the debate progresses and you may be surprised to hear the true picture.

It's good to hear another blogger supporting English independence and as well as supporting it for my own country I've also supported it for you and your fellow countrymen.

Thanks for the link btw. Much appreciated.

John Page said...

Take a turn at subsidising them then ... or us! :)