Better Democracy NZ is a non-partisan, non-profit organisation.

Our mission is to foster the improvement of New Zealand's democratic system and encourage the use of direct democracy through the

Veto, Citizens' Initiated and Recall referendum.


Monday, 29 June 2009

Executive Power and the Head of State

Here's an interesting article in Policy Quarterly from the Institute of Policy Studies, "Executive Power and

the Head of State: Issues Arising from Proposals to Establish a Republic" link text


Dominic Baron said...

This is an interesting, fluently written piece of academic thinking. It is of just the quality and depth to be expected in the pages of the Policy Quarterly published by the Institute of Policy Studies at Victoria University.
But that is it: an academic study. For me it is a study of one of the least important questions facing the people of New Zealand in the construction of their democracy.
The top priority is quite bluntly the resolution of the basic issue of our sovereignty.
Where does sovereignty reside? There can be only one answer: in the people of New Zealand. And it is by virtue of that sovereignty that we *must* grant ourselves our first democratic constitution as soon as possible.
What form our "head of state" takes, whether monarch or president, comes way down the list of priorities!
The quintessence of democracy is the direct control exercised by the people over the creation of their democratic constitution, and over its subsequent development.
After establishing the fundamental principles of Initiative, Recall, and Veto, we can then consider how to design assemblies to carry out the will of the people.
Then we can define the functions, responsibilities, and limits of any elected assemblies.
The process by which our democratic constitution will be created and maintained will require several referendums. There is no other way to ensure that we all "buy into" our new political structure.
Finally, when we have achieved all those aims, we can turn to the lighter topics for decision. One of those will be about the head of state. My preference would be for the Swiss concept of a Federal Council consisting of seven people, each in succession taking the role of "President" for one year.

Lewis Holden said...

Here's the problem though: so long as you have a Sovereign, sovereignty doesn't lie with "the people", it lies with the Crown. You can't vest sovereignty in the people of New Zealand without first getting rid of the Crown.

Dominic Baron said...

No Lewis,
Sovereignty rests with each one of us. It is inalienable. It can only be (temporarily) removed from us by force. Any claim by a single person, such as a monarch, or a group, such as a "parliament", to have "sovereignty" over the rest of us is usurpation. However recent or ancient the usurpation, it can only be done, and has been done, by force of arms.
It is our logical duty to resist and remove all such usurpations.

Lewis Holden said...

Dominic, the legal fact of the matter is that Sovereignty rests with the Sovereign. That's the definition of monarchy - power devolves from a monarch, not the people. No-one's usurped anything.

I agree with you so far as sovereignty ought to lie with the people. But like I said, it's impossible to constitutionally vest power in a nation's citizens so long as you have a legal concept of the Crown.

Dominic Baron said...

I understand the point you have made. The question now for me is: what is *legal*? I accept 'de facto' the "laws" that govern our lives because for the most part they correspond with common sense and it would be uncomfortable to ignore them. But I cannot accept them 'de jure' for the simple reason that they derive from the illegitimate seizure of power that underpins the claim by "parliament" to be sovereign.
Since the sovereignty of each one of us is inalienable it follows that only we, the people, can legitimately grant ourselves our first democratic constitution. Any assemblies we care to set up will be subject to that constitution, and only within the context of that democratic constitution can legitimate laws be ratified.
Even in our current illegitimate political system the monarchy is actually of very little relevance, however much we may like and enjoy its quaint trappings.

Lewis Holden said...

Ah, well as I said you'll need to get rid of the structure you consider to be illegitimate - specifically the Crown.

Dominic Baron said...

Yes Lewis, I agree. And your observation leads me to reflect that there is, of course, a special form of 'sovereignty' that "grows out of the barrel of a gun", as Uncle Mao so subtly put it...