I recently wrote a post, ‘Are We Responsible Enough to Govern Ourselves?‘. In it, I make the argument that the answer is no. If you disagree with that, I would love to hear why.
At the end of that post, I postulated a few points on how we can fix politics so that we may avoid the destructive nature of it. Here I will expand on those, and correct my shortcomings in writing it hastily the first time.
Let’s get started.
The career politician is a virus in the democratic system. A career politicians major concern is to get re-elected. Thus their every decision, policy and recommendation are acted upon in regard to their re-election chances and not to the people’s or nations benefit.
As a result of this, they are beholden to the people for the choices they make. The people, like most democratic people everywhere, are usually not well-versed enough in all matters of running a society, hence the need for a democracy in the first place, to elect others to do what need be done.
However, a funny thing tends to happen. Like with all things, we earthly beings have a tough time of grasping the bigger picture, and the decisions we make on a day-to-day basis are usually personal. Politics, and elections generally get thrown into this mix when they roll around. Politicians are then elected based on how likeable they are, how catchy their soundbites are or how opposed to their opponents policies they are and various other trivial, non important factors that excite us and make us like that person. The personal decision to elect a politician is usually based on how they personally benefit the voter, instead of the nation. It’s hard to blame ourselves really as we spend our whole lives providing for ourselves so it’s basically 2nd nature.
Politicians then have a tough time doing their job because they cannot always make the tough decisions that need to be made to move society forward or to say the things that they need too, as an ignorant populace can and will remove them from office if the effects of their decision effects them negatively, even though it might be beneficial to the nation, the latter is rarely taken into account by the majority of voters.
This has the consequence of politicians catering to the lowest common denominator that binds the varying social groups together, doing the minimum work necessary, staying away from controversial issues even if they need to be overhauled or addressed and rarely if ever, straying outside of this niche for fear of not being re-elected.
But here’s what people don’t get. Politicians are there to manage the big picture and they are supposed to be smarter than us, and routinely when they have to make the hard long-term decisions, they will require short-term pain, but long-term results. We punish them by being short-sighted and demanding the best of now, and the best of then, which in all but theory is impossible.
With this conundrum gaining strength as time progresses in every democracy; ever since the Athenians invented it, the calibre of politician is reduced as people who talk a lofty game are voted in, and who pander to the now crowd, while the future is left behind. Life isn’t that simple. Politicians are but an extension of society, and they reflect the society from which they come. The needs, the wants and the aspirations of that society. It’s a very sobering thought when you put it all in perspective.
“That which starts sweet, ends bitter; And that which starts bitter, ends sweet.”
Politicians should be limited to 1 term of 5 years. This is enough time to settle into a very difficult job; access, analyse and study the socio-economic picture, implement or eliminate programs that benefit, or are of detriment to the nation and then get the hell out of office without needing to pander to anyone, take money from lobbyists, or play Mr Nice Guy with the media and the populace.
Of course, a 1-term senator can sometimes lend itself to some abuse; this will be addressed in the third rule.
Stop the Revolving Door
The revolving door between big business, or businesses of any kind to be fair, and government has to be stopped.
In Saudi Arabia, they have a regulation in every private sector contract; A clause that stipulated that should the company and the employee part ways, that the employee cannot work for any other company inside Saudi Arabia for a minimum of 2 years. While in the private sector, this is a silly rule, and should be left individually between each company and employee. However, in the revolving door between public and private sector, this is extremely necessary and long overdue.
All too often, you see officials from big companies with huge influence in the halls of power, moving into regulatory positions overseeing the corporation they just came from. This puts them in a position of power to provide favourable circumstances for their recently departed company. Often times, they will re-join that company after their stint in the government providing their time in office proved fruitful for said company.
This is unacceptable and creates a clear conflict of interest. Another strategy that lobbying firms apply, is to offer government employees high paying jobs once they finish their time in the government. This effectively puts the government employee in the pocket of the firm, as they will rarely do anything to risk a multi-million dollar job that is sitting and waiting for them.
This practise simply must stop. A 2-year gap between any private sector switch to a government position will help reduce such circumstances. Obviously there would need to be qualifying conditions for this, and not an outright ban, and it will be handled by the courts, not by another government office.
One of the following conditions must be met for a 2-year gap to be legal:
From Private Sector to Government
i) The corporation lobbies the government, and has spent money doing so in the past 2 years
ii) The government position in question will have some part in regulating or overseeing the industry from the corporation the individual recently departed from
ii) From Government to Private Sector (Harder to regulate, and maybe even impossible)
– The government position had some part in regulating the industry the corporation belongs too, thus providing the corporation an unfair competitive advantage in the marketplace. [Could be an extension of the insider trading law)
– The corporation lobbies the government, and has spent money doing so in the past year
Politicians are by their very nature disconnected and cut off from the rest of us. They get free travel everywhere they go, free healthcare and various other perks. Thus, they never really feel the effects of recessions and other pains that we normally do as a result of their policies. This develops in them a certain laissez-faire attitude to introducing new regulations and laws to fix perceived ills in an economy, budget or the business world. They always have a need to fix things that may have resulted from their policies to begin with, and which may exacerbate the situation even further, but they do it anyway for fear of being labelled ‘idle’.
Counter to this, the people that they are exposed to tend to be the rich, politically connected folks who lobby for their time. This little conundrum means that they are really only exposed to new and different ideas by the folks with the means, money and power to get audiences with them. So its no wonder that most regulations, laws etc. are done by these politically connected class of people. We tend to act like, and become like those whom we surround ourselves with.
A nasty by-product of this human condition is that a lot of the laws and regulations that get passed, are influenced by those who stand to gain from them, and whom don’t have the greater good at heart. Whether or not, they are intended to be destructive to the rest of us peasants is unknown, but a majority of regulations end up doing just that, especially when you overload an industry or country with regulations. Eventually, it stifles and suffocates that which it touches.
Politicians have carte blanche to introduce any kind of bill they want, and with political manoeuvring, it’s possible to get any kind of bill passed in the ‘I scratch your back, you scratch mine later’ that seems to work so well in politics. This is arcane. Really no different than Kings and Queens of old enacting any old BS they wanted. Granted, it is much more difficult to do it now but it is still possible and getting increasingly easier as more and more funding comes from these big business types, and politicians become ever more isolated from us.
In almost all countries, there are dozens of universities. Universities that already do hundreds of studies each year in all matter of subjects far and wide.
For each program that a politician wants to implement, 3 randomly assigned universities must carry out the relevant social/economical/statistical studies on the impact of the program/s in question to the general population, to the national budget and even an attempt at assigning a statistical risk to eventual outcomes, so that contingency plans can be drawn up. At least 2 / 3 of the conclusions of these university teams should be in agreement for the bill to be allowed to be presented to Parliament or Congress.
For example, if a politician wants to implement a program that at face value; wants to impose a tariff on a foreign product to support a local industry and save jobs, then 3 different economic teams will study the proposed plan, and the possible outcomes.
The teams, in this case should come to the conclusion that the imposition of such a tariff would simply drain consumers wallets as a cheaper, equally well-made product is taken off the market, and an uncompetitive industry is then propped up at the expense of people’s savings, essentially taxing the general populace, and keeping the employees of said industry from being let go and put to greater use in a competitive industry that actually needs the labour to compete for the extra savings in the consumers wallets.
But bills like these pass all the time, as the members of the senate/parliament/house etc. are economically illiterate, and as are most of the populace. We don’t all have the time to study economics in University, but we can easily have Universities help us, which I’m sure they would be happy to do. This applies to all cross-sections of a nation. No one person is an expert on everything, but we can recruit the smartest people from the best colleges to give us the relevant, need to know information so that we as a nation can progress ever forward.
The names of the Universities, and the research teams should be kept secret from all until the conclusion of the studies, and the outcomes of all 3 studies should be published to the public domain, warts and all to remove any doubt or bias.
With the inclusion of the Social Sciences into politics, lobbying has no place and would probably disappear all by itself. If a donor was to donate millions to a politician in exchange for, lets say; deregulation, then the politician would not be allowed to simply push it onto the floor for voting, but a study would have to be done that actually verifies the potential outcome and whether that outcome is positive or negative. All of a sudden, you would find that nefarious bills pushed by the corporate world would all but disappear. Donations should stay legal, but capped to a certain number per individual.
The Judicial Branch
It’s not acceptable for judges to be appointed by the government. The three branches of government have a separation of power for a reason, so that they bicker among themselves instead of focus their efforts on us. When the government is allowed to pick judges, they can pick judges favourable to their administration. Of course, they want to make their jobs easier and it might not be for nefarious purposes but as innocent as it may seem, the long-term consequence of such trends eschew justice towards the government and whatever powers that be within it.
Judges should have to compete for people’s votes much as the MPs and Presidents/Prime Ministers have too.
I’m sure that even if all these were adopted, there would still be a way to game the system. There always is, that’s why after 2,000 years of democracy, democracy always ends in failure for the people. It is still the best system out of what we have come up with so far.
However, the above conditions are simply intended to make it difficult, or more difficult I guess is a more apt term to make the necessary connections, power plays and scheming that negatively affects the country over all.
“Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” Winston Churchill
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