Tag Archives: civic

On elected officials: Why we just cannot get it right…

It will surprise no one that at the time of this writhing Congress is sitting at a 16% approval rating. Now any explanation of such strong disapproval would be incomplete without reference to gerrymandering, however while that is part of the mix, I believe the root is far more basic, and prevalent. Most of our major political offices are filled by people who win elections, and ( most ) of the rest are filled by direct appointment of the winners, so my main focus here is that our system rewards people who are good at winning elections, not people that are good at governance. These groups are not mutually exclusive, but I am going to argue that the overlap is small, and the difference ( over MANY MANY elections over time) has had and will continue to have a huge impact.

So what do I mean that being good at winning elections and being good at governance are different things? To start just look at the skill sets, what makes a good governor, or leader? Honesty, integrity, concern for others, there are many more, but I’m keeping it basic. Now what traits make a good politician? Access to money, appearance, ability to speak well. Notice the lists are not the same, sure there is some overlap, intelligence would apply to both, but my point is our elections are kind of like holding MMA tournament to appoint a police chief, there is no reason someone good at MMA will not make a great chief, but really that system will ( especially over time) will turn out more good MMA fighters than good chiefs.

So our ( or really any ) election system is a ( hopefully) cleverly devised means of narrowing down everyone who wants to do the job to just one person, I argue that it should output ( ideally) the best person for the job or at least a good person for the job. Given the approval ratting I started with I argue this is NOT the case with our current system, and here is why: The single largest means of narrowing down the pool in an election is money, ask any one you know who would make a good leader, who has potential why they do not run for office. This eliminates an un-told amount of EXCELLENT people from the running, AND gives those with access to money a free pass from the largest cut to the pool. I cannot stress this enough, access to money does NOT equal a good leader! These are two VERY different things but by the time the ballots are printed this is what has in effect decided our candidates. This is why our government has such poor results, our entire election system skews not towards good leaders, but toward the wealthy.

So how would an election that is designed to elect good leaders look? Well we start out with a big pool and then eliminate people based on our criteria for good leaders. So start with everyone interested in the position as a potential candidate, then have the first round eliminate who simply cannot do the job, a BASIC civil service exam would suffice . Of those remaining ( which would be a HUGE pool of people) hold conferences of a few hundred each, maybe 8-12 hrs each where the pool will narrow its self down, remember we are looking for people who can build consensus and work together, I think that we record everything and that process will replace the campaign, just put 100 people in a room and ask them nicely to come up with 5 or so people who would be best for the job, Record EVERYTHING! And have the 4 or so people named form the next 100 or so person carcass, so on and so forth until we have the desired amount of candidates. When a caucus fails to produce 4 ( or any ) names the recording will be INVALUABLE in showing exactly who said what and who was not working towards consensus. There would also have to be a STRONG prohibition on “outside” political activity, IE: campaigns as we know them. Ideally this system would produce one person who all agree is the best ( or at least good) for the job, it would assuredly produce FAR better leaders than our current reward the best at winning elections system, not that 14% is a very high bar…

On civic duty:

Not a new point here, just a bit o clarification. We are all in this together, this truth is indifferent to the fact that a lot of us dislike or event hate each other. The finite resources of earth, and more importantly the rate at which we are depleting them, make it necessary for all peoples to acknowledge their role in humanity.

Normally civic duty is thought of as being a good citizen for the state in which one lives, being a good American, or Briton or what have you. I would like to advocate a more global approach; we are all members of the human race. This is (currently) not much of a distinction, as we are far from unified and cohesive, but it’s importance will probably become more clear in the next 40 years or so as our technological prowess go absolutely insane. So while it is important to think about what is good for me, it is ( when personal conditions are OK) to think about what is good for my neighbors, and provide the local community is doing OK we need to then look at the world, not America, not just our national interest, but human interest. It is here I think our leaders have been mucking things up, by pursuing policies that do not address real problems, and sometimes making those problems linger and intensify. I cite to examples, (they are far more but I’m the lazy sort) first physical security at airports: The notion that scanners and gates and armed guards will provide absolute security for air travel is laughable. It operates under the same idea that drunk driving laws prevent drunk driving, to be clear it dose reduce the chances of something bad happening, and as a stop gap measure I can abide it, but it will NEVER be a solution to the problem of people wanting to kill other people! I cannot stress this enough, our leaders are putting so much of the peoples resources into security, but almost nothing in addressing the in-equality that is far closer to the root of the problem, until the problem’s root is addressed we will just keep making smarter scanners, maybe in a couple decades brain scanners will detect ill intent, but having our emotional states read will still not prevent violence! Another example of policies exacerbating problems would be our (The U.S.’s) wars in the Middle East. The problem is thousands of years of religious turmoil and hatred, this will NEVER be fixed by more killing (with the one exception of killing everyone, but I hardly consider genocide “fixing”) education, empathy, aid these things at least have a chance, but the people we choose to represent us went with the plan that ended lives and made things worse. They (like all of us) need to think of civic duty to humanity, I know that being one seventh of one billionth makes one feel like we have no role to play in humanity at large, but this is not the case, in fact the idea of 7,175,118,110 people looking out for me, ready to help me if I want it gives me goose bumps. I can hardly fathom the positive outcomes of such a mentality if embraced by us all, and I make a point of fathoming outcomes on a daily basis. But as has always been the case with civic duty it must be a desire from within, it true value comes from the shared understanding and belief that we all deserve to suffer equally, regardless of the abilities we are born with, or who spawned us, or what great things we do. The ideal is equality, now the reality will probably never reach that, but we are orders of magnitude away at the moment and progress, while promising, is far too slow.

So waste less, conserve energy, vote for anyone who puts equality and empathy as their main principles, think of yourself as ( at least nominally) a member of the human race and how you can help us all out, you can be dam sure we need all the help we can get.