When I was growing up I hated politics. It was the era of Viet Nam and Nixon, and protests and scandals. To me it just sounded like a bunch of grown ups yelling at each other and I, a fairly quiet and shy kid, wanted no part of that.
By the time I was in my thirties I had gotten involved. I voted. I went to rallies. I worked on campaigns. I protested. I wrote. I did my part. That lasted about fifteen years.
Now I’m in my fifties and I am back to hating politics. The difference is that now I know WHY I hate politics. You see I’ve learned there are actually two different aspects of government. One is honourable and one is despicable. The trouble is that the despicable one gets all the press.
First there is governance. Governance is the act of people joining together in societies to solve common problems. Governance put people on the moon. Governance made it so the food you eat and the air you breathe is safe. Governance keeps the wings on the airliner, the wheels on your car, and makes sure when you put money in the bank it’ll be there when you want it. Governance is the cop on the beat. The inspector in the factory, and the degree on the wall of your doctors office. Governance is what separates us from the animals. Governance does not grow out if thin air. Governance is put in place to solve problems.
On the other side is politics. Politics is people fighting each other to gain power and to amplify their status. Politics is the peacocks tail. Politics is a sexual dysfunction. Remember Teddy Roosevelt and his “Walk softly and carry a big stick”. He wasn’t talking about a chunk of walnut or maple. Politics is all about power and status. Politics doesn’t care about helping people. Politics doesn’t care about solving problems. In fact politics will often hurt people and create problems JUST so the politicians have something to shout about. Politics is all about THIS guy being able to say he fucked over THAT guy. This is the reason there are comparatively few women in politics. Asinine, testosterone poisoned, despicable games like this don’t tend to appeal to many women. They are smarter than that.
And this is the great tragedy of western society. For every screaming, shrill, mental midget politician there are at least a thousand firemen and teachers, and inspectors that labor in anonymity, do their job, and make the country work. The trouble is, people have gotten so fed up with politicians, they want to throw the whole thing out. Unfortunately the first thing on the chopping block is usually governance and the politicians are out there egging them on. You often hear “The country would be better if we took all the regulations off of business”. No, when that was true slavery was legal. Children laboured and died in factories. Cholera, polio, and yellow fever epidemics were a regular occurrence. Food was untrustworthy and medicine unreliable. Without governance you wouldn’t have vacation time, and health benefits. Heck before strong governance it was not unusual for people to work and not get paid, for people to deposit their money and the bank to just skip town, and for patent medicine sellers to poison people and never pay for their crimes. It was governance that set up a public school system of such high quality that people used to send their children from the other side of the world just so they could attend. It was politicians that screwed them up.
If by some reason you DO believe in Libertarian principals and believe that the marketplace is the best way to sort out the good from the bad, the safe from the unsafe, I have news for you. The Marketplace itself won’t work without good governance. Governance is what makes sure that money is worth something, and that you can trust a company to pay what they owe you. Governance is what protects the invention from being stolen, the writer from being plagiarized, and the artist from being copied. Effective governance is necessary for the marketplace to work. Without rules and enforcement the market becomes nothing more than a barter bazaar where stolen items and ideas are traded but there is no advancement and in the end no profit. The Dark Ages were, to a great extent, all about a lack of governance. Good Governance is the foundation and the spine of the marketplace.
Even the most heinous street gang has rules. Even the most cruel pirate ship has a code of conduct. Even the most primitive band of people living naked in the depths of the amazon jungle has a degree of governance. It is what makes us human. Yet modern politicians seem to be all about eliminating governance. How rules are what keeps you out of a job. How inspectors prevent that product from making your life wonderful. How great things would be if only we got rid of government. Ronald Reagan famously said that “Government is the problem, not the solution” Members of the Bush administration were very fond of saying that they wanted to cut taxes so that they would “starve the government until it’s small enough to kill with a stick”. Ironically enough the politicians that rail most loudly against government also seem to be the first ones on the screen labeling protests as Anarchy. Funny thing about that, Anarchy seems to be what they are going for. Anarchy IS a lack of governance.
Understand this, the politicians certainly do, the worse governance gets the more power the politicians have. The triumph of the Age of Enlightenment was the replacement of kings and dictators that stole and killed with impunity with the Rule of Law. Laws ARE Governance. When there is a disparity in power, law and the rule of law are what levels the playing field so the average person has a chance. By railing against government and governance, politicians are acting for the powerful against the peoples interest and in the long run against national interest.
Bureaucrat and Bureaucracy were terms invented by politicians to justify their behavior.
There is a vested interest for politicians to screw things up. To gainsay whatever the opposition does even if it’s a good thing. To oppose violently and to lie with broad strokes when something is going well. This begets a spiral where one side screws up things for the other then the other does it back. Pretty soon the whole country is screwed and it was politics that did it.
This is why you see, and it’s happened many times in my lifetime, a country that is really on the ropes will push the politicians aside. They will install a “Caretaker” government of “Technocrats”. What are Technocrats? They are people that are experts in Governance. These are the grownups who step in and make the system work again. They reset the apple cart. They capture the horse, put it in the barn, and close the door. They get the schools open, the water running, and stabilize the currency. They fix the system. Once governance is working properly again they hand the country back to the political children to play games with until the next time they break their toys.
We need to eliminate the politicians. We cannot afford their asinine, testosterone fueled, who has the biggest dick in the room bullshit any more. They are a luxury we simply cannot afford. The stakes are too high. On the other hand we have to have good governance. It is the foundation of a civilized society.
Sorry but nobody really believes the survivalist idea that “paradise is government letting me alone in my cabin with my guns”. The first time you get sepsis or trichinosis you’ll want governance in the form of a well stocked hospital and a doctor with actual skills. The first time a gang of thugs comes up to your place to steal your stuff and put a few slugs in you and your family you’ll want governance at the end of your 911 call and in the form of a well trained professional police and justice system. Heck each time you pull the trigger you should give a little thanks to governance seeing to it that your gun doesn’t blow up in your face. We are the product of good governance. Our whole society relies on good governance. Business operates on the assumption that there will be good governance.
No man is an island. We are social cooperative creatures. Governance and cooperation is very possibly why Homo Sapiens survived and Homo Neandertalis did not. Good governance is in our DNA. What we need to do is get rid of the politicians that are increasingly making that impossible. And how do we do that?
Beats the hell outta me.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti democratic. Democracy is a great idea in theory. Letting the people decide on their leaders is head and shoulders above the other options. It’s just in practice though, it doesn’t work any more. Western style democracy is run by the political class for their own benefit. They own the media, they own the air waves, they have all the chips. The real good that governance does is ignored or lied about so a few can maintain power at the expense of the rest. This is why in the US and for that matter most western democracies voter turnout rates are low and are dropping. Most people, average people, middle of the road people, don’t see anyone saying what they want to hear. The politicians have restructured the process to alienate a majority of the voters. The few that do vote are divided between those voting against rather than for someone, and those who hold their nose and vote for what they see as the lesser of two evils.
The system is broken and politicians are the ones that broke it.