Toxic politics makes us all loseTuesday, May 11, 2021
THE pandemic may be a harsh event for most, but it has been an eye-opener for me mostly. Over the course of the pandemic I have started to learn economics in its basic forms, learn more about real estate, finance, and other topics, even civics.
I was in conversations with a few Americans on social media from the political moderate left, right and centre. While I may come from classical liberal origins of thought, there was one social Democrat in the centre left who not only agrees with me that well-managed free markets, free trade and democracy are good, he agrees with me that the intellectual discourse of politics everywhere has been reduced to the 'pot calling kettle black', and yelling as loudly as possible at people who hold different views, while trying to convince yourself that you are actually doing something to contribute to society.
And that is the central reason I have decided I no longer want to be a politician.
Politics has dwindled from being about effective policy administration to blame-shifting, mudslinging and tribalism, moreso in Jamaica, where it is a lucrative profession for some.
While I have no problem with a profit motive — as it makes you a self-reliant citizen who carries his own weight and, if you choose, the weight of others whom you feel benevolent towards — what sort of people seek profit from public office? Mostly the type of people I try to avoid, whether it is that nosy neighbour who is quick to comment on your comings and goings; the entitlement-fuelled student at university disappointed at the fact that not everyone cares about whatever qualities he has, no matter the fact that he has student debt, like most of his peers anyway; or the detached person who believes in fairy tales and utopias.
While most may try to skirt this fact, politics, especially tribal, partisan politics, has too much fame, fortune and power attached to it. A lot of politicians, whether from the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) or the People's National Party (PNP), have even created or inherited political dynasties by selling the myth that if we vote for (the 'right' candidate) their candidate the world will instantly balance and everything will fall into place, and we would live in a utopia of their design. The problem is that it is a myth to think that there is a “right” candidate. There is no right candidate. There are only capable individuals who can do the task at hand with the most efficiency, and then there are the incompetent ones who need to be sent back to whence they came.
Partisan politics seems to blind people from actual solutions to problems. The problems of crime, corruption, poverty, sustainable economic development, climate change, abortion, LGBT rights (or lack of recognition of rights), etc, can easily be solved at the lowest economic and social cost of trade-offs. However, logical solutions aren't as emotionally satisfying as painting an “us vs them” picture, even though the problems affects us all.
Tribal politics destroys good ideas and sets up bad ones because of the colour shirt the ideas have on. It seeks to divide us so that we are easily controlled by people who wants to imprint their personal desires as the national policy for everyone. It also has the ability to make people chastise the other for whatever wrongs they do, but justify the worst of atrocities just as long as their team does it, even if it is done to them.
That is why I prefer to work in the private sector, rather than the public sector. In the private sector you can make an honest living with your skills, raising everyone's standard of living.
But modern politics, especially two-party partisan politics, seems to try to pit us against each other to force us in choosing suboptimal options imposed from a Labourites and Comrades conundrum.
Gone are the days of real ideology as, while the particulars may vary over time, the prime minister and Opposition leader seem like two sides of the same coin — always telling us to choose between who is less incompetent to hold office, when we need not choose any incompetent person, but skilled professionals instead.
If voters were more educated and focused mainly on policy, party manifestos would look like peer-reviewed economic journals, instead of a Christmas wish list, and campaigns would look like economics forums. But not-so-smart voters breed not-so-smart politicians who promise everything but deliver next to nothing.
So, while I can't tell anyone what to do, for the aspiring firebrand reformers, I recommend you do yourself and everyone a big favour: If you think that going into politics is a good idea, forget it! If you're against corruption, it is going nowhere, as it will happen in the halls of power just as long as measures of public sector accountability remain lax, such as the lack of impeachment procedures or the backlogs in court cases, and there are lots of opportunities for gross impropriety in handling taxpayers' money and power.
If you care about the environment and sustainable development, note that the benefits from mining companies which the Government receives, whether in tax revenues or shareholdings, always supersede.
If you can't throw mud and twist statistics and figures, you won't remain in power for one more term, assuming you even get power.
And, change is hard to effect in society and politics, because the ex-politician's son or daughter or friend, who may be more adept at playing at the ears of the masses, gets elected ten times before the person who claims to have qualifications and good policies.
The more you seek to distance yourself from partisan politics the more you see the flaws in it and come to the realisation that working in your corner to solve the problems in the Jamaican society is much more effective than pinning your hopes on an election every five years.
To paraphrase one Thomas Sowell: Blessings do not come from elections; unfulfilled promises usually do.”
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