3 or 4 year terms?
Sinclair Davidson spotted the interesting debate in the The New Zealand Initiative's weekly email update on whether or not to lengthen the three-year parliamentary term to four year.
Oliver Hartwich wants the term lengthened:
Elections are about choosing people we trust and task with decision-making on problems we may not even know at the time of the election. If you are uncomfortable with that then you have not understood the concept of parliamentary democracy.
The more substantive problem with three-year terms is that it leaves little time for parliamentary work. With new MPs and positions reshuffled, it takes the best part of a year for a new parliament to start functioning. Parliament also typically descends into a pre-election campaign well before the likely end of its term.
Currently this leaves just about one year for good, substantial governance. Increasing electoral terms to four years would double this quieter mid-term period when parliament can properly fulfill its role as the legislature. It would allow more time for good law-making, and it could well result in a better quality of policy. It might even encourage governments to undertake necessary reforms, even if their positive results do not materialise immediately.
Luke Malpass disagrees:
The arguments for four- (or five-) year fixed parliamentary term can be summed up as stability, predictability and giving government time to implement its agenda. By having a longer fixed term, government governs better.
This is all well but ignores the basic principle that liberal democracies are founded upon: fear of tyranny. This fear is institutionalised through checks and balances to limit power of government.
“I’m inclined to agree with Luke,” says Sinclair. Me too. “Luke’s point about tyranny is decisive. The only way to keep the bastards honest is to throw them out of office. That means shorter not longer electoral periods.”
Oliver reckons the “substantive problem with three-year terms is that it leaves little time for parliamentary work.” But this is not a bug, it’s a feature! It’s the parliamentary work they’re doing that is making our lives worse.
“Increasing electoral terms to four years would double this quieter mid-term period when parliament can properly fulfil its role as the legislature,” says a deluded Oliver Hartwich. Because these bastards are not in there legislating to make our lives better, or freer, or more prosperous, and they haven’t been for a very long time indeed--and if Oliver or anyone truly thinks they are then they’re either blind or stupid.
As Mark Twain used to say, neither life, liberty nor property is safe while parliament is in session. If a three-year term means parliament is in session for fewer hours—and in those fewer hours less work is being done—then I’m all for shortening parliamentary terms, not making them longer.
Indeed, if a three-year term really only leaves one year when parliament fulfils its role as the legislature, then I’m all for making the parliamentary term only two years. Then the bastards wouldn’t have time to do anything at all substantial.
And how bad could that be?