Flanagan’s Status Quo
In 1988 abortion legislation was abolished by the supreme court of Canada (Flanagan 120). Current law was deemed to violate a women’s “security of person” under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Wikipedia). Drafting and passing abortion legislation became the responsibility of the current Prime Minister and the House of Commons (Flanagan 121). Attempts by Brian Mulroney to introduce abortion legislation into the House of Commons and senate failed repeatedly (Flanagan 121). ) Despite public opinion favoring moderate legislation, abortion in Canada remains unlegislated (Flanagan 121).Under the circumstances stated why does Canadian abortion law remain in a state of limbo?
In Game Theory and Canadian Politics Thomas Flanagan attempts to elucidate this seeming anomaly in Canadian politics. Firstly, the inability to pass new legislation is explained by the tendency for the status quo to prevail when a “cyclical opinion structure”(Flanagan 121) is present in the legislating body (Flanagan 121). Secondly, Flanagan (121) emphasizes how parliamentary outcomes are influenced by the procedures with which legislation is passed. These two points are illuminated and analyzed using aspects of game theory. Rational choice theory is used to analyze the parliamentary procedure and cyclical opinion structure that caused all possible resolutions and amendments introduced into the House of Commons to fail. Than, the game of chicken and extensive form games are introduced to explicate bill C-43’s majority vote in the House of Commons and subsequent failure in the senate.
Although enlightening, Flanagan’s analysis lacks in-depth explanations and pertinent aspects of game theory. He comments on the vote’s failure to unify around the
median voter, but fails to develop or sufficiently explain this comment. The sequential games used to explore the case of bill C-43 lack fundamental aspects of game theory such as the Nash equilibrium and subgame perfection. Lastly, his assumptions pertaining to ordinal utilities appear to violate necessary elements such as connectivity and transitivity (Gates and Humes 8).
This paper will attempt to critique and expand upon Flanagan’s case study the “staying power of the status quo.” Mulroney’s attempt to introduce abortion legislation to the House of Commons will be introduced and Flanagan’s analysis of the subsequent events will be explained and critiqued using additional aspects of game theory absent from the original paper.
Mulroney began the battle for abortion legislation by attempting to test opinion in the House of Commons with an unconventional parliamentary procedure. He would introduce a set of resolutions containing three different choices: a moderate gestational approach, a pro-life approach and a pro-choice approach. The resolutions were to be voted upon and drafted into a bill (Flanagan 124). This voting process would eliminate a fourth option--the status quo-- which would typically...