Sunday, January 25, 2004

Here is a newspaper article from the LA Times about many taboo topics. We are all cynical about politicians, but what about the people who elect them? What about us? This is the first newspaper article I've ever seen to talk about how much voters need to know to be able to choose a good government - and how odd it is that everyone should be cynical about the quality of our politicians but not the people who elect them. Although he says many good things, I still want to think about what it is in our sysem that encourages politicians to appeal to the worst rather than the best in us.

Part of it may be our 2 party system. Although a great many votors are neither Republicans nor Democrats, the vast majority in congress are either one or the other. It would be interesting to have a moderate party, but hard to sustain without structural changes. People who disagreed with them on an emotional issue would abondon them for one side, and they would tend to move in the other direction to capture opposing voters.

Another reason people are cynical tends to be government spending. Sometimes government spending can be more efficient than private sector spending, as many nations have found in their health care system. But when a spending program or a tax cut is proposed, the people who would benefit it applaud enthusiastically, while nobody knows who will be on the other side or when. Requiring any tax cut to be accompanied by equal spending cuts and any spending program to be accompanied by equal taxes is not quite right however. Mainsteam economists believe defecit spending during a recession is OK to promote economic growth, so the revenue measures should be indexed to the economic cycle as well as the cost of the program.

When most of us think about governance at all, we focus on the personalities of politicians ? how they make us feel, not on the ripple effects of the decisions they make that affect not only our own lives but those of our children and grandchildren.

And as things are, this also applies to those of us who plan ahead even for our grandchildren. Even those who don't live by defecit spending applaud their government for it - or at least applaud the benefits they like more loudly than they complain about the cost not being paid.

No comments: