Politics – who is to blame for this mess?

“There are no morals in politics; there is only expedience. A scoundrel may be of use to us just because he is a scoundrel”, Lenin.

“Ninety percent of politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation”, – Kissinger.

I was once part of a small delegation to meet a well-respected, successful businessman who was known for his ability, strength and his probity.  The plan was to have him join a political party and stand for Parliament.  The plan failed.  The said gentleman threw his head back and laughed.  “Forget it”, he rejoined.  “Politics is the home of the smart, not the intelligent, the translucent not the transparent, the power-hungry, not the powerful, the ingratiating not the grateful – it’s not for me.  What you see is what you get with me. I would never make it”.

It made me think.  Why can’t we have high calibre people in our Parliament?  Why isn’t there more honesty and integrity in politics?  An easy answer is that it is the House of Representatives so politicians simply reflect the mores and attitudes of their community.  But that is misconstruing the notion of “representation”.  Politicians are elected to represent the community, not reflect it.  

Perhaps the answer is best captured by Gustave Le Bon, a French psychologist, who said, “the masses have never thirsted after truth. Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim”.

Sadly, it’s that simple.  It is not the politicians who are to blame alone, it is also the voters.

Take a relevant and apt illustration.  The scene is the PM’s office.  Those present include the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education.   Education Minister wants more money for teacher’s salaries.  Finance Minister says, “no, there is no money”.  PM says, “we have to find some.  We can do both – pay the extra and keep the books in good order.  It is a matter of constructing the case with some smoke and mirrors.  The people want well paid teachers and they want us to balance the books.  I will handle the story for the media and the voters.  They will quickly forget that we fiddled the books to give them what they wanted”.

Politicians go out and bribe us with our own money because in a general sense we want to be bribed.  We want the new road, the stadium, the rail line, the increased pension, the higher pay, the bidding war that leads to the lolly scramble.  Of course, we all make the right noises about profligacy and waste.  We mutter about promises that cannot be paid for.  We make a song and a dance about higher costs and extra regulations.  But, overall, we vote in the biggest promises.

Le Bon’s statement also said that whoever sets out to be realistic and destroys our illusions is always the victim.  How true.  The most honest and realistic politician of my time is Sir Roger Douglas.  Need I say more?

Politicians are not individual employees that can be fired.  The party and its all-encompassing strategy and wide net of ideas and beliefs is a messy target.  MMP clouds the decision-making. It is an overlay of confusion and unpredictability making accountability even more of a headache.  The system is tilted against us, but remember, we chose it.

It starts with each of us being honest with ourselves.  We have to exercise some self-discipline.  We all want to go to heaven but we don’t want to die has become our reality.

Of course, I am not talking about you.  I know you understand these matters.  It’s the ‘others’ who are creating the problem.  You fully understand the issues and think differently, don’t you?

Don’t you?


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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

Guest Post content does not necessarily reflect the views of the site or its editor. Guest Post content is offered for discussion and for alternative points of view.

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