Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Campaign finance: open-source polling edition

I'm really enjoying the contest of ideas thrown up by this election but am utterly in despair at the way the political game is played. A recent pair of examples shows the benefit and curse of competitive politics. In both cases, ideal policy settings would reflect a trade-off between two desirable things, but that can't be admitted in competition because a differentiated stance will get more votes.

You've probably already guessed that my examples from the last week are education policy and the environment/economy issues. On education, it is obvious to all of us that we should aim for smaller classes and better teachers right? Yet we are being asked to pick one and vote for it which is way beyond annoying for many of us I'm sure.^

I don't find the environment/economy issues quite so tricky because National wants to gut the RMA which for all its faults does actually require trade-offs to be assessed. Fast tracking the economy over the environment is obvious madness, so the choice is easy. In this case, what really gets my goat is the utterly disingenuous propaganda pedaled by the Feds, who hate the Greens and their carbon tax so much that they'll make up any old rubbish to rally the troops.* So maybe, since there seems to be no rational argument, there really is a fundamental conflict about what we value.

Which would be a great thing to be discussing. But we don't discuss our own values, do we? In fact, at times like this only the political parties have insight into what we value through their polling. But they filter all the information and use it to design policies they think we'll like.

So here's the crazy idea. Give political parties a publicly funded polling budget, so they can find out what we think, on the condition that all polling data are provided on a free and open-sourced basis.

The pollies get to pose the questions, but everyone gets to see the questions and the answers because we paid for it. This would empower citizens to spot madness and offer new ideas, or at least get a better feel for how our fellow Kiwis feel about stuff.

^ If policy was rational, it'd surely consider advancements in quantity and quality.
* I will remember this when the Feds new President fires up his pro-GE campaign, as he surely will.

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