Thursday, May 03, 2007

SOX for Politicians

James links to a suggestion that politicians should be forced to read - and understand - any legislation they sign.

What an excellent idea!

I guess there's the minor problem that, were this rule to be applied more widely, you'd probably need to test all citizens before they're allowed to vote.  Not something I'd relish.  The cleverer someone is, the more ridiculous their political beliefs usually turn out to be. (You, dear readers, do not count, of course).

I wonder if there is any way to achieve this directly?

I suppose one could encourage the media to ask questions about bills politicians have voted for in an attempt to ridicule them.

Another option, I guess, would be to find a way to encourage bill drafters to include little nuggets that, left unamended, would make something bad happen to an MP.

But there must be some more creative ideas :-)


Matt Mower said...

were this rule to be applied more widely, you'd probably need to test all citizens before they're allowed to vote

We already do, the test is "are you at least 18 years of age." We take age as a proxy for other attributes we assume to be related to judgement required for responsible voting. We probably also have other tests like "are you criminally insane?" I'm not sure.

This seems to me to be no bad thing, up to a point. From my perspective the test is:

"Do you appreciate the consequences of your actions?"

And I think this should be applied equally to the voter and the representative. It's not even remotely applied to voters but given our proxy system it seems quite reasonable to me to expect it of our representatives as a minimum guarantee of competence.

A representative who has not read and understand a bill is not in a good place to appreciate it's consequences.



Richard Brown said...

I agree that our representatives should be forced to display a degree of understanding of a bill before being allowed to vote on it.

However, I suspect my main reason for supporting it isn't because I want better informed politicians (truly scary!), but because the proposal would have the effect of reducing the amount of legislation being enacted.

Perhaps I should also support proportional representation for the same reason: the more fragile a ruling coalition, the harder it is for them to get anything done!

Matt Mower said...


The combined effect of coalition and a need to understand legisltation before it can be passed should be less, but better thought through, legislation based around broad consensus.

This could lead to the breakdown of the party system since parties tend to want to polarize. If this were true it would be a nice side-effect.

Now the question becomes: How?