I am not sure which is worse, politicians or those who believe in them.
Chris Berg at IPA has come up with a great article “Go on, mate, get out there and make a difference.” In it he refers to the resignation of Labor MP Evan Thornley in order to reenter the private sector when he was on the verge of a ministerial position.
But if the only reason state Labor MP Evan Thornley has resigned his seat is so he can re-enter the private sector, then, well, that's fantastic. In 2009, we're going to want every businessperson on the ground working overtime to create jobs. The last thing we need is talented entrepreneurs spending their lives stuck in the world of petty rivalries and disproportionate egos that is Australian politics.
Anyway, we have a more than sufficient number of politicians trying to engineer political solutions to what is an economic crisis. Thornley founded a company that, at its height, was worth just shy of $1billion. His commercial acumen and skills could be far more useful building the economy than regulating it. …
So it is no surprise that so many laws and government programs are ill defined, have no clear goal, and provide no method of assessing whether they are actually working. But politicians find it's a lot easier to start a government program than to close an old one. Bureaucracies, commissions, departments, boards, committees and taskforces pile up upon each other, each insisting on a slice of the annual budget. They say that laws are like sausages: it's better not to see them being made. But do we really have to be forced to eat so many? …
In another post he linked to an article in “The Australian,” containing the following: -
... because one of our biggest problems is recruiting good people into politics," (Liberal MP) Dr Washer said. Without proper pay, there was a risk only "clowns", "losers", "screwballs" and "halfwits" would want to enter politics. "We need highly professional, highly skilled people to run the economy," he said. "If you're going to squeeze their pay you can't get them."
This raises the question of just what sort of people are we getting in parliament, are they, “highly professional, highly skilled people,” or are they, “clowns, losers, screwballs and halfwits." OK, OK, lets be fair and at least analyze the sort of person who is there. Obviously not all of them fall into the second category, "clowns, etc. but considering the nature of politics, the highly skilled professional type is unlikely to be drawn to it.
Thomas Jefferson had an interesting take on them: -
"The nest of office being too small for all of them to cuddle into at once, the contest is eternal, which shall crowd the other out. For this purpose, they are divided into two parties, the Ins and the Outs, so equal in weight that a small matter turns the balance. To keep themselves in, when they are in, every stratagem must be practiced, every artifice used which may flatter the pride, the passions or power of the nation. Justice, honor, faith, must yield to the necessity of keeping themselves in place. The question whether a measure is moral, is never asked; but whether it will nourish the avarice of their merchants, or the piratical spirit of their navy, or produce any other effect which may strengthen them in their places. ...”
Oh well, as they say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Jefferson obviously displayed much of the same contempt for politicians, or in this case political parties in 1810 that we express today and for the same reasons.
Politicians are by choice people who hold onto office at the whim of popular opinion and for that reason have to play to the majority of the public in order to keep office. In reality parties hold the loyalty of certain groups on ideological grounds who seldom consist 50+% in their own right, so the order of the day is to appeal to sufficient others to get to the magical figure.
In order to keep that loyalty of consistent followers they need to talk the sort of talk that keeps them in thrall, which is not generally difficult, as they had to be good at it to get there in the first place. The trick with the rest is to play the game of giving them the old something for nothing, or at least sounding like it. This practice does not appeal to people of conscience or principle.
The problem is and has always been that the sort of people who would be best suited to conducting affairs of the nation seldom want to be there and are not well equipped to get there anyway. The sort of people best equipped are those who crave power, many such as John Howard have played the game since their late teens, I mean what sort of teenager wants to spend time doing political committee work rather than chase chicks? Basically, to have the drive for politics you have to believe that the use of the authority vested in it is personally fulfilling.
In other words it appeals to those who get a kick out of power; who like running the show, with the attention and kudos that goes with it. Some on the other hand are just plain dumb enough to believe they are giving genuine public service, and that their superior ideas are best for all of us and therefore perform a noble function. Parliament is therefore not the sort of place where we should expect to find people of self-respect and integrity.
There are undoubtedly people in our parliaments who do consider themselves honest, moral and intelligent, and some of them may in fact be so. Those that are so are a small minority, the rest are deluding themselves.