In their classic treatise The Calculus of Consent, Buchanan and Tullock analyse logrolling:
Logrolling seems to occur in many of the institutions of political choice-making in Western democracies… Under the rules within which such assemblies operate, exchanges of votes are easy to arrange and to observe. Such exchanges significantly affect the results of the political process.
On June 20, the Fairfax press broke a story that the Greens were in discussions with Senator Elect Ricky Muir:
Based on the numbers in the new Senate, the vote of Mr Muir, of the Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party, has become crucial for the government if it is to abolish the profit-making agency [the CEFC]. Mr Muir is being courted by the Greens.
This story was a little bit puzzling. The CEFC is a rent-seeker’s dream and is poor policy. Now, Mr Muir is no economic rationalist but there doesn’t seem to be any a priori reason why the member for petrolheads would support such waste, no matter how nice the Greens are to him.
Today we may have the solution to this little puzzle. The Greens have just announced a huge backflip – they will oppose the Abbott Government’s Budget proposal to re-index the fuel excise to inflation.
According to The Australian:
MOTORISTS will be spared a $4.2 billion increase in fuel excise after a backflip by the Greens put the government’s budget measure in doubt.
So why the sudden policy backflip? Why in the name of Gaia would the Greens oppose a proposal to increase taxes on those evil fossil fuels?
Here’s a suggestion: follow the money. If there’s one policy the Greens want to keep, it’s the disastrous CEFC. Similarly if there’s one thing that motoring enthusiasts want, it is lower petrol taxes.
So, we now have a theory: this is a textbook example of logrolling in action.
Did the Greens procure Muir’s vote for the CEFC in exchange for today’s backflip on fuel excise?
Perhaps the Greens (and Mr Muir, for that matter) are really not that smart. When Mr Muir enters the Senate and casts his vote on the CEFC, we may have our answer.