Labour Party betrays working class again: nanny state obligations to enrol to vote


Extraordinary. Political junkies don’t realise that there are people out there that have better things to do with their lives than take an interest in politics.


It’s a free society. They are free not to listen, not engage and not vote for anyone. Free speech includes a right not to speak and not to participate. If you disappointed with that political apathy, put forward a party platform that excites them enough to vote. Get out the vote by being worth voting for.

What is more extraordinary is a party that claims to speak for the working class first opposed obligations on welfare benefit receipt regarding looking more intensively for work and paying court fines and so forth, but it is happy to use the same provisions for their own political advantage because they are on the ropes. The New Zealand Labour Party’s party vote at the last election was at record low levels. It is still at the same level in the opinion polls.

As for voter registration drives in working-class electorates, the New Zealand Labour Party has no large donors apart from unions. The reason for this is as their former president, Mike Williams says " if you don’t ask, you don’t get ".

Voter registration is voluntary in the USA and for all its flaws, and I think there are far fewer than people say, Richard Posner could still give an excellent defence of political participation in the USA:

American democracy enables the adult population, at very little cost in time, money or distraction from private pursuits commercial or otherwise, to punish at least the flagrant mistakes and misfeasances of officialdom, to assure an orderly succession of at least minimally competent officials, to generate feedback to the officials concerning the consequences of their policies, to prevent officials from (or punish them for) entirely ignoring the interests of the governed, and to prevent serious misalignments between government action and public opinion.

Too many as Richard Posner has argued well in his writing want to remake democracy with the faculty workshop as their model. Such deliberation has demanding requirements for popular participation in the democratic process, including a high level of knowledge and analytical sophistication and an absence, or at least severe curtailment, of self-interested motives.

Much empirical research demonstrates that citizens have astonishingly low levels of political knowledge. Most lack very basic knowledge of political parties, candidates and issues, much less the sophisticated knowledge necessary to meet the demands of a deliberative democracy.

One reason for these low levels of political knowledge is a large number of people are simply not interested in politics even if they have the time to take an interest.

Because of this political ignorance and apathy, Posner championed Schumpeter’s view of democracy. Schumpeter disputed the widely held view that democracy was a process by which the electorate identified the common good, and that politicians carried this out:

  • The people’s ignorance and superficiality meant that they were manipulated by politicians who set the agenda.
  • Although periodic votes legitimise governments and keep them accountable, their policy programmes are very much seen as their own and not that of the people, and the participatory role for individuals is limited.

Schumpeter’s theory of democratic participation is that voters have the ability to replace political leaders through periodic elections. Citizens do have sufficient knowledge and sophistication to vote out leaders who are performing poorly or contrary to their wishes.

The power of the electorate to turn elected officials out of office at the next election gives elected officials an incentive to adopt policies that do not outrage public opinion and administer the policies with some minimum honesty and competence.

The outcome of Schumpeterian democracy in the 20th century, where governments are voted out rather than voted in, is that most of modern public spending is income transfers that grew to the levels they are because of support from the average voter.

Political parties on the Left and Right that delivered efficient increments and stream-linings in the size and shape of government were elected, and then thrown out from time to time, in turn, because they became tired and flabby or just plain out of touch.

I wouldn’t revel too much on the higher voter turnout  as as yet another saviour on the horizon to bring the Left over Left back from the political wilderness. The most votes ever won by a political party in the UK was 14 million by John Major’s Tory party in 1992 when the shy Tories came out in force to re-elected the incumbent government much the surprise of the opinion polls.

Higher voter turnout is not necessarily always a good thing in terms of good governance. William Shughart found that voter participation increases in gubernatorial elections in the USA when evidence of corruption mounts. Candidates, political parties, and interest groups have incentives to invest in mobilising support on Election Day.

Those who stand to gain from being office through their corruption invest considerable resources in mobilising voter turnout that is in their favour. Corruption increase the value of winning public office and strengthens the demand-side efforts to build winning coalitions.

In a prophetic article at the dawn of the Internet, Robert Tollison, William F. Shughart II, and Robert McCormick wrote in 1999 about how voting is not the only way in which people express their political preferences effectively.

Observers of American democracy complain that voter turnout and voter registration are low and had been low from 50 years. Tollison, Shughart, and  McCormick reminded these critics that:

Voters now have more political information available to them than ever before, and they are no longer confined to expressing their political preferences at the polls once every two or four years.

Newly available technologies have lowered voters’ costs of becoming informed about political issues and of communicating with their political representatives.

Voter registration and voter turnout is lowest among young people who also happen to be the most Internet savvy. This is not surprising considered the prophetic observation of Tollison, Shughart, and  McCormick in 1999 that:

What is more important, the opinions voters form on the basis of the information available to them can be communicated to policy makers rapidly and effectively.

E-mails, faxes, and phone calls are substitutes for ballots. By the time an election rolls around, politicians and policy makers already know what the voters think and, hence, their wishes have already been incorporated into laws and policies.

Tollison, Shughart, and  McCormick asked why vote when you have already influenced political outcomes through alternative means between elections such as social media:

Having affected policy outcomes, voters are naturally less interested in voting on candidates. Low turnout rates on election day may paradoxically be evidence of greater voter participation in the political process.

In fact, we are fast approaching a return to the town meeting, where individuals register their preferences on specific policy proposals and politicians can assess the intensities of those preferences by reading their e-mail. Indeed, voters can vote as much and as often as they want in the information age.

It is not surprising therefore in this prophetic article that Tollison, Shughart, and  McCormick predicted that politicians would pay close regard to social media, and if they did, democracy works:

As long as politicians are good agents who read their faxes and e-mails correctly, voters will correspondingly have less need to go to the polls.

Voters will vote only when their representatives ignore their electronic opinions. Indeed, that is the implicit threat.

And because voters don’t have to go to the barricades to voice those opinions, political discourse should become more civil and political protests less frequent and disruptive.

HT: Nick Kearney


Posner and Easterbrook opine upon the law and economics of rent control

POSNER, Circuit Judge, with whom EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judge, joins in 819 F. 2d 732 – Chicago Board of Realtors Inc v. City of Chicago:

The stated purpose of the ordinance is to promote public health, safety, and welfare and the quality of housing in Chicago. It is unlikely that this is the real purpose, and it is not the likely effect.

Forbidding landlords to charge interest at market rates on late payment of rent could hardly be thought calculated to improve the health, safety, and welfare of Chicagoans or to improve the quality of the housing stock.

But it may have the opposite effect. The initial consequence of the rule will be to reduce the resources that landlords devote to improving the quality of housing, by making the provision of rental housing more costly. Landlords will try to offset the higher cost (in time value of money, less predictable cash flow, and, probably, higher rate of default) by raising rents. To the extent they succeed, tenants will be worse off, or at least no better off.

Landlords will also screen applicants more carefully, because the cost of renting to a deadbeat will now be higher; so marginal tenants will find it harder to persuade landlords to rent to them. Those who do find apartments but then are slow to pay will be subsidized by responsible tenants (some of them marginal too), who will be paying higher rents, assuming the landlord cannot determine in advance who is likely to pay rent on time. Insofar as these efforts to offset the ordinance fail, the cost of rental housing will be higher to landlords and therefore less will be supplied–more of the existing stock than would otherwise be the case will be converted to condominia and cooperatives and less rental housing will be built…

The provisions that authorize rent withholding, whether directly or by subtracting repair costs, may seem more closely related to the stated objectives of the ordinance; but the relation is tenuous. The right to withhold rent is not limited to cases of hazardous or unhealthy conditions. And any benefits in safer or healthier housing from exercise of the right are likely to be offset by the higher costs to landlords, resulting in higher rents and less rental housing.

The ordinance is not in the interest of poor people. As is frequently the case with legislation ostensibly designed to promote the welfare of the poor, the principal beneficiaries will be middle-class people.

They will be people who buy rather than rent housing (the conversion of rental to owner housing will reduce the price of the latter by increasing its supply); people willing to pay a higher rental for better-quality housing; and (a largely overlapping group) more affluent tenants, who will become more attractive to landlords because such tenants are less likely to be late with the rent or to abuse the right of withholding rent–a right that is more attractive, the poorer the tenant. The losers from the ordinance will be some landlords, some out-of-state banks, the poorest class of tenants, and future tenants.

The landlords are few in number (once owner-occupied rental housing is excluded–and the ordinance excludes it). Out-of-staters can’t vote in Chicago elections. Poor people in our society don’t vote as often as the affluent. See Filer, An Economic Theory of Voter Turnout 81 (Ph.D. thesis, Dept. of Econ., Univ. of Chi., Dec. 1977); Statistical Abstract of the U.S., 1982-83, at pp. 492-93 (tabs. 805, 806). And future tenants are a diffuse and largely unknown class.

In contrast, the beneficiaries of the ordinance are the most influential group in the city’s population. So the politics of the ordinance are plain enough, cf. DeCanio, Rent Control Voting Patterns,Popular Views, and Group Interests, in Resolving the Housing Crisis 301, 311-12 (Johnson ed. 1982), and they have nothing to do with either improving the allocation of resources to housing or bringing about a more equal distribution of income and wealth.

A growing body of empirical literature deals with the effects of governmental regulation of the market for rental housing. The regulations that have been studied, such as rent control in New York City and Los Angeles, are not identical to the new Chicago ordinance, though some–regulations which require that rental housing be "habitable"–are close. The significance of this literature is not in proving that the Chicago ordinance is unsound, but in showing that the market for rental housing behaves as economic theory predicts: if price is artificially depressed, or the costs of landlords artificially increased, supply falls and many tenants, usually the poorer and the newer tenants, are hurt…

Richard Posner on privacy


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Richard Posner described the engines of women’s liberation


Richard Posner on the drivers of interest group capture of regulatory agencies


Richard Posner on statutory interpretation


"The Rise and Fall of Judicial Self-Restraint" with Judge Richard Posner

Richard Posner and Sam Peltzman joint interview 2009

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Richard Posner on academic moralists


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Richard Posner on behavioural economics and its real-world applications


Richard A. Posner – Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis

via Richard A. Posner – Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis.

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