Hardly worth having at all

After all, it seems it’s perfectly possible to get along without one, or at least without one that’s doing much.

Belgium finally has a new Prime Minister – after a record-breaking 541 days without a government.
[…]
It saw the nation claim the title of being without a government for the longest period – but despite the political chaos, services were carried out as usual and many Belgians did not notice much difference to their daily lives.

Now this isn’t quite accurate. Firstly it it pointed out towards the end of the article that Belgium has had a caretaker government in place all this time, but of course the purpose of caretaker governments is to do nothing except keep things ticking over and make no changes unless absolutely necessary, and in fact the interim Prime Minister leading the caretaker government has been the one who resigned more than a year and a half ago. Secondly it’s only the federal government that Belgium has been doing without for the last 541 days, and if the Belgian people noticed little or no difference to their lives that might be because the regional, community and provincial governments were still going and they’re more relevant – a point which should be noted by all fans of localism.

All of which brings me to this question: for those of use living in federations such as Australia or the US, or quasi federations where bits have their own parliament like the UK, or even wannabe federations like the EU, how much do we really need from a federal government? The Belgian experience would tend to suggest that the answer is not a great deal.

4 comments for “Hardly worth having at all

  1. Chuckles
    December 9, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    If we’d known, we could have offered them ours? Mind you, casus belli and all that, probably not.

  2. December 9, 2011 at 8:19 pm

    “the answer is not a great deal”

    And not all the time either if the Belgian experience is anything to go by.

  3. Brian, follower of Deornoth
    December 9, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    So Belgian civil servants have been sticking their thieving hands into the pockets of the public without the slightest speck of democratic legitimacy for the last 541 days (during which time they also contrived to declare war on another sovereign state).

    • December 10, 2011 at 3:48 am

      Their Civil Service wil have been operating as all Civil Services always do both before and after June 13th last year, so no difference there. The same thing happens in Britain for a few weeks about every four years. The caretaker government, as I understand things, consisted of people who’d won elections individually with a very high turnout (they have compulsory voting) and I believe the Chamber of Representatives and Senate both still sat so there was democratic oversight, though as someone who thinks democracy is overrated and getting worse I’m not even sure it’s a big deal anyway. Doubtless that democratic oversight approved Belgium’s contribution to the Libya attacks.

      I’m not suggesting that not having a federal government is a solution to any of this – clearly it isn’t and what might be is for another post. I’m just pointing out that it doesn’t make a difference whether you have one or not and in fact it doesn’t seem to be really essential for very much.

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