Friday, 15 August 2014

An Open Letter to Alex Salmond: Democracy & the "Will" of the People

Mr Salmond,

During the recent Scottish Independence Debate between yourself and Alistair Darling,you made the statement that for more than half of your life Scotland has been governed by parties that "we" (by which you mean the people of Scotland) didn't elect at Westminster and that these parties have given us the "Poll Tax" and the "Bedroom Tax" (by which you are referring to the under-occupancy penalty, which of course, you know as well as I do, is not a tax).

I would like to point out, that for my entire life I have been governed by parties that I didn't elect at either Westminster or Holyrood.  This is part of the nature of democracy - sometimes you get stuck with some politician or some party that you didn't vote for (most of the time if you happen to be a libertarian or a true liberal).  Your adversary Mr Darling observed as much when he quipped about not having voted for you.  This was more than a joke, he clearly understands this important truth concerning the nature of democracy.

Indeed, by your standards the UK has been governed by parties that "we" (by which I mean all of the people of the UK) didn't elect at Westminster for my, and indeed your, entire life.  Not for eighty-three years, since the 1931 UK General Election, has any single party won an absolute majority of votes.  That is to say, for every single one of the 19 UK General Elections held since 1931, the majority of voters in the UK have voted against whomever was in power at Westminster.

Furthermore, implicit in your statement that "we" the Scottish people didn't elect those parties in Westminster is the idea, to borrow Don Boudreaux's words, that a "multitudinous and extraordinarily complex and diverse group of individuals" (i.e. "the Scottish people") can have "anything reasonably called "a representative" or an agent or agency that carries out its 'will'."  I completely reject such a notion - "[g]roups of people have no 'will'.  It is mistaken anthropomorphism to imagine otherwise."

The distinction which you implicitly draw between "we" the Scottish people and "we" the British (and Northern Irish) people is completely arbitrary.  When politicians move political boundaries to their own advantage we call it gerrymandering.  This argument which you put forward during the debate is nothing more than an argument for gerrymandering on a national scale.

I assure you that I feel more kinship and national identity in common with my English wife and with many English friends, colleagues and acquaintances I have known throughout my life than with you or any of your nationalist party colleagues.


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