It’s quiz time again, boys and girls!
Consider this: You have a tree in your yard. It’s fine and healthy, but a neighbor keeps getting drunk and running into it with his car. Soon, you begin to worry that it might be causing lasting damage. Do you
a) Move your tree,
b) If he hits it again, move it again,
c) Throw up your hands, denouncing the sorry state of drivers, or
d) Try to get your neighbor off the road until he stops drinking.
It may or may not be true that all politicians are corrupt, but this observation does nothing to improve the situation we find ourselves in. I read a blog post the other day that maintained that the real problem was that public servants should be selfless, and they’re not. This brought to mind two observations: when I hear people criticize someone for being selfish, what they usually mean is they’re not paying enough attention to their needs; the other thing is that hardly anyone, let alone politicians, is selfless to an ideal degree. Our elected representatives are going to have their own interests at heart; after all, don’t you? The problem is how to structure things so that doesn’t conflict with the public interest. Never mind that we don’t all agree with what that is. After all, those 40 or so Tea Party congressmen were voted into office, and, by all accounts, their constituents tend to agree with their actions.
In any case, the irony is that these people are apparently acting out of principle — that is to say, out of a feeling that they are doing what the country desperately needs. You can always reason with cynics, by convincing them what they’re doing is not in their best interests. If someone is acting out of principle, however, forget it.
If you say the whole government is corrupt and irredeemable, you are really falling in line with the Tea Party. If that’s what you want, say so. If not, don’t muddy the waters and let the real perpetrators get away under the cover of cynicism.
I couldn’t find an answer that I would actually perform in that scenario. This line really hit home with me: “when I hear people criticize someone for being selfish, what they usually mean is they’re not paying enough attention to their needs”. So true, so well stated. And the point about reasoning with cynics versus someone acting out of principle is again spot on. Excellent post.
ideology + gerrymandering + echo chamber = present catastrophe
Something’s got to give.
Well written and reasonable…ah, ideology is really difficult to overcome…must agree with Marya, and of course something’s got to give. I don’t live in the U.S. and haven’t for a very long time but have family in that country, some who depend on their VA benefits like my Mom who is over 80. I agree with you that people all tend to do what’s in their best interest, and it’s silly to think that politicians are some sort of civil saint. To me, this is the key phrase of your post: “The problem is how to structure things so that doesn’t conflict with the public interest.” Unfortunately I think that is not only the million dollar question, but also almost inevitably one impossible to find an answer to. At the moment, people are reaching the end of their tether, a bad situation, that’s been building up over the last 10 years.
Part of the problem is the completely unrealistic expectation of sainthood in politicians among the public. This has wrecked the careers of perfectly competent politicians in the name of morality. What we get in their place is the Tea Party purists. The real problem is the US electorate.
Bsically, you’re probably not wrong..in Italy, where politics is a shambles by the way, the saying is that people get the government they deserve…meaning it’s the voters who decide who gets elected or not. Here up until recently around 80% – 90% of the people voted…locally those figures are still true. But the people consistently vote in people like Berlusconi…so go figure.