An important feature of any liberal democracy such as ours is to make sure any bureaucrat is not put in such a position that doubt might be cast on the work he does. We can achieve this by using oversight committees, by assuring some degree of cross-party consensus over the appointment of any such bureaucrat, and most important of all: eliminating conflicts of interest.
It will come as no surprise to regular Wittgoers that I feel rather strongly about this. Until very recently the current Secretary of State (essentially the chief civil servant responsible for running elections among other things) was simultaneously a party leader. Now, the Secretary of State is a good man, but he’s a man whose work cannot be subject to the scrutiny afforded to politicians. His work absolutely cannot be the subject of any question of bias, and as a man he should not have to suffer the political attacks that are rightfully reserved for politicians. To do so is to politicise the role, whether this is intentional or not, and must be prohibited.
Why? When we have a commission to ensure the validity of votes cast, is this really necessary? Sure we can see if any wrong doing has occurred? Nope. If you’re a party leader and you get to decide some of the more negotiable terms of the electoral process, you do of course have a massive advantage over all the other party leaders who will not have any say in the process whatsoever. Even where the Secretary of State is constrained to act in a particular fashion, the accountability and public right to political scrutiny can quickly lead to political opponents feeling that something a little awry. I suspect you’ll agree that this is something we should be keen to avoid.
And, of course, there are other duties that the Secretary of State is required to perform that involve discretionary power. The role has a significant say over which bills are clarked for the 6) Ziu’s consideration. In this instance there is no oversight, and as such the Secretary could exert their influence for political gain or advantage. What then? Should we be content to allow the possibility of political point scoring being achieved through a bureaucracy that should right be non-political? I think not.
This isn’t to say that the current Secretary of State, Marti-Pair Furxheir is someone who is capable of this. It has never been my intention to assert thus, simply that the role is too important for us to let the possibility of it occurring creep into the law, and further to protect good people like Marti-Pair from having to worry about accusations of wrongdoing. We shouldn’t make laws based on how nice we think the current holder of the office us. Rather, we should make laws in order to prevent the worst case scenario from happening –it’s something that should unite progressives and conservatives really; we need to be cautious in our law making to ensure stability and order, but we need to change it if it doesn’t go far enough to secure the protection we direly need for both the role and the individual that holds it. As such, I call on the next Cosa to consider legislation preventing excessive blurring of lines between the executors and the legislators of law. Further, laws stopping us from marring the required apolitical nature for bureaucrats with party politics would be something of a good idea. No matter who’s in government for the next seven months, I’ll be authoring a bill to this effect, and I hope to see a lot of the next crop of MCs and Senators supporting me.
Home » a liberal perspective » Issue #13 » Xheraltescù » "No Thumbs on the Scale," by C. Carlüs Xheraltescù
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