Friday, 18 October 2013

Reflections on Politics

In response to my article yesterday - Chris Boocock wrote the following. Responses and comments are always welcome - and I am happy to facilitate a reasoned debate: -
There are several things that strike me about the US shutdown.
For what reason do we elect our politicians?  
  1. Is it to work in the best interests of the country?
  2. Is it to work in the best interests of themselves (their career) in adhering & even extrapolating party ideology?
  3. Is it to work in the best interests of me as a constituent?
Unfortunately all these three points conflict.
However, taking the first point, surely to work in the best interests of the country they must look at the utilitarian approach – or to quote John Stuart Mill:
“In the golden rule of Jesus of Nazareth, we read the complete spirit of the ethics of utility.  To do as one would be done by, and to love one's neighbour as oneself, constitute the ideal perfection of utilitarian morality.”
The problem is that the monetarist approach of Milton Friedman and the macro-economic approach of J.M. Keynes can both lay claim to propound “the greatest happiness for the greatest number”.
Taking the second point, why does one enter politics?  It is undoubtedly to serve altruistically – for Constituent and Queen (or President) and Country.  However, it is inevitable that, to quote Lord Acton “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Great men are almost always bad men”.
And taking the third point, my views are expressed in the manifesto of the Party I choose to vote for.  Even if my representative was of my political persuasion, I expect them to stand by those who voted for them.
Finally – how dare any politician hold a country to ransom.  How dare they choose to damage their country and send it backwards – a short term view.
This is echoed in Lord Tebbit’s retrospective comments on the 1984-1985 Miners Strike:
Those mining communities had good working class values and a sense of family values.  The men did real men's heavy work going down the pit.  There were also some very close-knit communities which were able to deal with the few troublesome kids.  If they had any problems they would take the kid round the back and give them a good clip round the ear and that would be the end of that.  Many of these communities were completely devastated, with people out of work turning to drugs and no real man's work because all the jobs had gone.  There is no doubt that this led to a breakdown in these communities with families breaking up and youths going out of control.  The scale of the closures went too far.  The damage done to those communities was enormous as a result of the strike.
As to violence, Matthew Simmons stated:
It would be naïve, in my opinion, to assume the gap between rich and poor could stay as it is now, and even more naïve to assume this gap can grow without finally creating massive civic turmoil.  If the gap gets too great, the poor will finally come over the walls of prosperity and attempt to redistribute this wealth.  History has shown this to be the case, time after time.  Most of our worst wars were not ideological battles but true fights over the redistribution of wealth‖.
In the sustainable Development Commission’s report Prosperity without Growth Tim Jackson wrote:
Every society clings to a myth by which it lives.  Ours is the myth of economic growth.  For the last five decades the pursuit of growth has been the single most important policy goal across the world.  The global economy is almost five times the size it was half a century ago.  If it continues to grow at the same rate the economy will be 80 times that size by the year 2100.
This extraordinary ramping up of global economic activity has no historical precedent.  It’s totally at odds with our scientific knowledge of the finite resource base and the fragile ecology on which we depend for survival.  And it has already been accompanied by the degradation of an estimated 60% of the world’s ecosystems.
For the most part, we avoid the stark reality of these numbers.  The default assumption is that – financial crises aside – growth will continue indefinitely.  Not just for the poorest countries, where a better quality of life is undeniably needed, but even for the richest nations where the cornucopia of material wealth adds little to happiness and is beginning to threaten the foundations of our wellbeing.
For at the end of the day, prosperity goes beyond material pleasures.  It transcends material concerns.
It resides in the quality of our lives and in the health and happiness of our families.  It is present in the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community.  It is evidenced by our satisfaction at work and our sense of shared meaning and purpose.
It hangs on our potential to participate fully in the life of society.
Prosperity consists in our ability to flourish as human beings – within the ecological limits of a finite planet.  The challenge for our society is to create the conditions under which this is possible.  It is the most urgent task of our times.
To me – this speaks volumes as to a politician’s responsibilities.  Unless they step up to these responsibilities they do not deserve to represent anyone.  As I’ve always said, politicians are the last people we want to represent us.