Thursday, March 5, 2009

Democracy in the Republic of Newfoundland

With so much careless blather about an independent Newfoundland, it might be worthwhile to stop, for just a second, to consider what liberal democracy would be like in this much-hyped Utopia.

Rather than speculate idly, why don't we consider the actual words of one of the members of Newfoundland's most powerful family?

Here is an extract from Brian Dobbin's last editorial in the now-defunct Independent:

"So since I have paid for the most expensive pulpit in the province for some time, I have one last sermon to deliver.

For Christ’s sake, while we are raking in the money from the oil wave this generation is suddenly enjoying, let’s invest in our futures. To do this we need government support financially for those dreamers who will create the industry that will give our children rewarding lives here when the oil runs out … and if we try to do it with our current government structure we will be pissing it down the drain.

Ministers should be professionals like in Taiwan or the U.S. cabinet. Elected lawmakers sit in the House and control the government, but don’t try to run billion-dollar enterprises with no experience. The results are predictably disastrous and the bureaucrats end up making policy and decisions, people whom by the very nature of the bureaucracy are resistant to change or risk.

Elect the premier separately, he’s the CEO. Let him or her recruit and hire the professionals needed to minister the delivery of our services and the stimulation of our economy. Leave them there for five years, and pay them a good salary along with the pride in serving their country (oops, I meant province).

OK, that’s it … I know it sounds a little out there and non-related, but I believe in my heart and after much thought that every major problem I faced in 12 years of starting new industry here would have been made significantly easier by this structural change to the way we do things.

Give it some thought."

Yes, you should....

Points of Interest Update:

In response to queries, let me point out two facts:

1. Yes, the U.S. cabinet comprises Secretaries appointed by the President rather than elected by the people. The American doctrine of separation of powers was designed to militate against the domination of one single party (it actually does a fairly good job on that score), but it's notorious for fostering legislative gridlock. To take one example, the American hybrid system of health care costs far more in terms of GDP than our largely public system. And as for the question of professionals versus politicians, while many U.S. Secretaries are professionals, such Timothy Geithner (who isn't exactly doing a bang-up job), many others are career politicians, such as Hillary Clinton.

2. As for citing Taiwan as a model for democracy, Martial Law was only lifted there in 1987. "But," according to the BBC, "even after the law was lifted, tight restrictions on freedom of assembly, speech and the press remained in place, having been written into a National Security Law, which had been passed a few days before. "

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