Sunday, 9 September 2012

Taxation without representation

I've been disenfranchised for my entire life. While I had been able to vote in the UK since I was 18, not once did my vote ever count for anything at all due to the terrible "first past the post" electoral system of the UK.

One of the good things about the Netherlands is that there is a much fairer political system here which gives smaller parties a voice. As a result, votes are not wasted in the Netherlands and no-one is disenfranchised. Well, I say "no-one", but actually that's not quite true as I remain disenfranchised. I can't vote in national elections in the Netherlands because I am not (yet) a Dutch citizen. I could still vote in the British elections, but there's really not much point in going to the effort of registering to do so merely to see my vote count for nothing at all yet again. As a result, I am disenfranchised. I pay tax to the Dutch government, but I do not get to influence the Dutch government. Taxation without representation as Americans would likely put it.

That sounds bad, but actually it is no worse for me than it would be if I lived in a country with a less fair political system, such as the UK, USA or many others where I could see my vote count for nothing year after year. There are many people in those countries whose votes never count for anything and they are just as disenfranchised as I am.

What is needed is electoral reform to a fairer system as is used here in the Netherlands. There has long been a movement in Britain which would like to achieve a fairer political system, but last year the reformers made such a colossal mess of their campaign that they set back any attempt to fix this problem for many years.

Now that brings me to the upcoming election in the Netherlands (September 12th). There were hustings in the centre of Assen yesterday and the local representatives of political parties were out in force to convince people to vote for them. This all happened in the middle of the main shopping area in Assen, where there are always hundreds of bicycles parked. Only one political party brought along a car as the centre-piece of their display and that was Groenlinks - the "Green Party" of the Netherlands.

I've noticed before, not only here but also in the UK and other countries, that "Green" parties seem to be particularly easily taken in by the implausible claims of car manufacturers that today's latest technology (what technology that is varies from year to year and has been unleaded fuel, catalytic converters, hybrids and electric cars, for instance) will somehow transform what is one of the most energy wasting devices that we have into something altogether different. This never happens of course, because actually such claims are mere relativism. Electric cars use almost exactly the same amount of energy as cars which burn fossil fuels directly and they are just as capable of killing more than a million people each year. It is only good for car manufacturers if everyone buys a new car and throws away the old ones, not for the environment.

It's Greenwash, nothing more, and it's a shame that it is believed. I don't vote for Greenwash, so I don't vote for Green parties either. I find it amazing that Green politicians are often not particularly enthusiastic supporters of cycling, and that this is true not only in other countries where bicycles are not used much for transportation, but also here in the Netherlands where we have a higher proportion of trips made by bike than in any other country in the world.

The Fietsersbond has information on their website about the policies of each party with regard to cycling. Groenlinks does have a lot of good policies for cycling, even though they are also enthusiastic about cars.

I could vote, I'd be voting Partij voor de Dieren (PvdD) - Party for the Animals. I think the name makes many people think they are little more than a single issue pressure group, however this party seems to have more comprehensive green policies than any other, and they are the only one to really recognize the effect of animal based agriculture and diet on our world.

Anyone who has ever tried out an online "ecological footprint" calculators will have noticed that adopting a vegan diet and using motorized transport as little as possible are the most effective things that one can do for the environment.

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