Saturday, February 2, 2013

#33 / Honest Politics

Of the "Five Simple Rules" that define what I think "good government" requires,  it may be that Rule #5 is the most important:

Rule #5: “Be honest.” This means more than the minimum requirement of not taking bribes, though of course that is important. What this Rule means is that you've got to tell people what you really think. That lets them decide whether they like your positions, and whether they like you. That puts the people in charge of politics. 
In the end, that's what it's supposed to be all about!

"Politics" is a system for resolving real conflicts within a community, by having the community make choices about what it wants to do. There are often several different options available, with pros and cons for all of them, and since our government mainly works by electing representatives to exercise the power of the people, it is vital that those with the ultimate power (the voters; the people) actually understand what their representatives, and their potential representatives, think, and what they want to do.

Any politician who is actually "honest," in this way, will obviously not get the support of those who disagree. Therefore, it is a common practice for politicians, and aspiring politicians, never to state a strong preference for any position. Even when they act, and when they actually vote, it is common for politicians to do so in a way that suggests that they are not "picking sides." 

If, as a politician, you want to support honest government, you have to "pick a side." And you have to make clear to the public which side you've picked.

If, as a voter, you want to keep your representatives honest, and to end up with "honest government," you need to make your representatives tell you what they think, and tell you what they want to do, and then you have to watch what they "really" do, and not necessarily believe what they "say" they are going to do, or believe their own explanations for what they say they did.

(Many) politicians lie, either directly, or even more commonly "indirectly." Many politicians simply won't tell the voters what they really think, or what they really want to do, or even what they really did. That means that the voters will find it hard to know whether they like the positions that their representatives are taking, or whether they even like the representatives themselves. And if the voters don't have that kind of information about their representatives, they won't be able to put themselves in charge of politics.

And putting the people in charge of politics is what it's supposed to be all about!

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