Restrict the franchise
We don't have universal suffrage, and no-one is advocating it. Therefore there's a choice that has to be made, and a legitimate question is Who should vote?
I believe that people who derive their main form of income from the state (yes, including teachers) should not be given the vote. Either we accept the libertarian position of state as monster, or we treat it as a consensual collective that generates welfare-enhancing policy. In which case the relationship between customer and employee needs to be refined:
- Ford employees shouldn't determine Ford's production levels: they should participate in developing efficient responses to consumer-defined production
A Clarke Tax
Might a Clarke Tax be used as an effective "preference-revealer"? According to Zhaofeng Xue:
Clarke tax is a voting system where everyone express their preference in form of money amount and only the voter whose money amount changes the voting result ... pays.
Papers on this: "A Clarke Tax Algorithm".pdf, "The Clarke Tax as a Consesus Mechansim Among Austomate Agents".pdf, "A secure and private clarke tax voting protocol without trusted authorities"; "Sufficient conditions for a vanishing Clarke tax — a note";
But see the special edition of Public Choice that looks at demand-revealing voting mechanisms. The problem with a Clarke Tax is that:
voters might collude and over express their preference. So doing would make any single member of the colluding group free from paying the clarke tax -- since his voting does not change the result, while the aggregate effect of the vote of the entire group does change the result.
Does this fear hold up though?
Method of Marks
Popularised (and dismissed) by famous political scientist Charles Dodgeson (aka Lewis Carroll), the Method of Marks is a simple way to demonstrate the weight of a preference ordering.
Voters are given a "budget" of votes to distribute between the candidates as they wish.
The only criticism of this seems to be that it's undermined by strategic voting (in a similar way to a Clarke Tax being undermined by possible collusion), but as James Buchanan (rightly) says "All voting is Strategic".pdf
Set up Government for tender
I believe that Buchanan and Wagner fundamentally undermined the Keynesian justification for fiscal policy:
at the margin politicians preferred easy choices to hard ones, and this meant lower taxes and higher spending. Thus, whatever the merits of Keynesian economics in using government fiscal policy to "balance" the forces of inflation and deflation and employment and unemployment in an economy, its application in a democratic setting had severe problems of incentive compatibility; that is, there was a bias toward deficit finance
In short the elementary insights of Public Choice demonstrate how deficits are an inevitable consequence of the incentive structures generated by democratic control of the public purse.
But there is an institutional arrangement that deals with this problem - tenders. The Labour party has "acute cash flow problems" and the Conservatives are also effectively bankrupt. Neither party have demonstrated sensible in house financial management, and to permit them to control the Treasury is ludicrous. So why not force political parties to submit spending plans prior to an election, and make them cover shortfalls or miscalcultions from their own party funds?
It's no coincidence that I've linked to so many Political Scientists associated with GMU, and the person with the deepest originality and innovation in this field will follow suit.
UPDATE: Thanks to all those who've
commented on this, although I'm disappointed the main focus has been on the restriciton of the franchise. The response actually undermines the possibility of having a rational debate on constitutionalism, which is a shame. People seem unwilling to run the thought experiment, dismissing it out of hand. Fair play to Jim though, who makes an interesting point: Anthony's blog suggests an ever-larger state and an ever-smaller electorate.
So check out Chris Dillow's take, and also the comments section in both his post and this one.