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Sunday 15 April 2012

Vote Them All Out

One of the greatest dangers to a free society is the career politician.  Politics is often a nasty, petty business, filled with back-biting, childish taunts, and sensationalised propaganda unfit for even a schoolyard.  The mechanisms of "compromise" corrupt those who began their political careers with the very best of intentions, and even the most stalwart defenders of civil liberties and freedom may vote against their core beliefs and conscience in order to secure a victory for something else later.  It is almost unavoidable.  The longer one remains in politics, the more likely their integrity will be eroded.  Without genuine integrity to guide the politician's decisions, votes are likely to be ego-driven and self-aggrandising.  The career politician must toe the party line and curry favour with big businesses and special-interest groups. In return, the politician gains more power, greater influence and wealth.

Our democracy is representative, meaning that we voluntarily elect citizens to act on the people's behalf.  A true democracy, where every citizen has an equal voice and could vote freely on every issue, would be an impractical and logistical disaster for most every country and society.  And the honest truth is that most people simply cannot be bothered to care.  If someone else can do the job for them, all the better.  So we hire a few select citizens and grant them very special privileges to take care of all of the things that should keep society running smoothly.  In effect, we pay them to do our dirty work for us.

When you think about it, making decisions for vast swathes of the populace is an awesome responsibility.  It is not a duty that should be taken lightly.  Livelihoods are often at stake.  No one decision will please everyone and the politician should ideally proceed by weighing up the opinion of the majority and carefully considering the impact any given law will have on a minority.  Unfortunately, we find that the politician's responsibility has been delegated to party leaders with particular agendas at play.  The politician is told what to think, what to say, how to act, and how to vote on any given law or proposal.  The duty of being a politician for the people is therefore corrupted by the selfish interests of the few for short and long-term gains of the party.  Decisions are not made in the bests interests of the people, they are made for the best interests of the politicians we've elected, and they are too often made for special interest groups and big businesses which would profit by certain legislation.

On the other hand, what if every politician actually voted for what they and the people they represent believed?  If there were no parties to align oneself to, would chaos ensue during debates and votes?  Is the party system a necessary mechanism of politics in order to get things done as it were?  It probably is.  If all of the MPs were given equal time to debate every proposed regulation and law, allowing for rebuttals, and further rebuttals, it could likely take years before a vote occurred.  Nothing would be achieved efficiently. So the party system could be seen as a further representative device within government to delegate the authority of the many to the party leaders.  It's difficult to imagine a working system of government without a party system in place to speed things up a bit.

So if we want a somewhat functioning government (and I'll leave it to you to argue what that means), we should accept the limitations of a democracy.  Right? Can we do representative democracy better?  Is there another system that would ensure efficiency and integrity? I really do not know.

The real trouble isn't the party system despite its flaws.  The trouble is that we have people who make careers out of being politicians. Some stay in for life. I suppose it's easy to argue that experience with the system makes for a more effective politician; that the older pols will train the newer pols how to work within the system; that the contacts made over the course of many years are vital in greasing the wheels of democracy. The truth is that the system is gamed to reward those who stay in politics.  It is this way because all of the politicians in the past have set it up to be like that.  It's protectionism at a grand scale. Think of it as a labour union.  The job of the union is to protect as many of its members as possible.  And so it is with politics.

Because the system is gamed, there are no limits for how long a politician can remain in power.  And you can bet that very few of them would accept term limits. How many of us would accept being forced out of our jobs every five years, especially when we loved our work?  Probably none of us.  So our options are limited, but we can do something about it.

We vote them all out.  They need our votes to keep their jobs.  We should not give our votes to those who want to remain in office, regardless if they did a good job while serving.  Many, if not most, will become corrupted by the system, if they were not already corrupt to begin with.  We could use our power of democracy to enforce term limits on those who would seek to profit from their responsibilities.  We should vote them all out in put in new recruits at election time.  We could effectively limit the corruption to a short amount of time.  Since they won't change the system, we can try to do it for them. 

To me, it doesn't matter which party you want to vote for.  I view them all as pretty much the same with a few minor variations.  Just get rid of all of the politicians currently serving and start fresh, every time, because they have, every last one of them, let us down spectacularly.  I don't imagine that doing this will be the panacea for everything that is wrong with politics.  Indeed, I can already see a host of other problems that it would create.  But it's a start in a new direction.  By limiting the time they can serve in office, we can begin to limit the influence of special interest groups and big businesses who influence the debate unevenly and unfairly.  We can effectively end some of the cronyism and we can bring a little more integrity to our political systems.

One further caveat:  It does require that you begin to care.  Just a little more than you might already do.  I sincerely believe getting people to care will be the greatest hurdle of all.