Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Problem With Elected Officials

So here's the thing about elected officials.  They get elected because they are Good At Getting Elected.  They don't get elected because they know something, have policy skills, or are particularly representative of the people electing them.  They get elected because they managed to convince a lot of people to vote for them.  Now, the trouble with that is it basically puts selective pressure on politicians to make them better at getting elected.  It puts absolutely no pressure on them to get better at running the country.  I mean, there might be beneficial side effects for them if they happen to implement awesome policies that greatly improve the lives of many voters, but frankly, if you tell people to think something from a position of authority they tend to believe it.  Take, for instance, beliefs about the distribution of wealth in america.  Or Obama's birthplace.  Or the level of taxation under Obama.

Basically, the moral of the story is this:  It is easy to deceive people, and you get elected by winning rhetorical battles rather than implementing policies that people like, so politicians across the board have strong motivations to deceive people rather than do anything useful.  This is going to be true in any democracy, but it seems particularly egregious here.  I feel like we need some sort of mechanism for punishing liars and showing actual facts.  The trouble is that any service doing this would almost certainly be ignored as "too partisan" by both parties.  I can't think of a way around this except through educational reform.  Education has always been the path out of tyranny.  The new tyranny is that of misinformation and rhetoric and so I guess we should be studying rhetoric and statistics.  Either that or we could all become anarchists.

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