Rewarding Bad Behaviour Gives Us The Government We Deserve
“Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us”
|President Obama and Prime Minster Harper|
There has been a lot of criticism of government lately and it doesn’t matter which country you’re in, that statement pretty much stands uncontested. We all, myself included, are quite critical of those we elect to represent us, particularly when they don’t do what it is we expect or want. Some of that criticism is more than warranted but not all. We taught our governments how to behave by our demands and our expectations and they learned well from us.
We taught politicians that we could be bribed with our own money in order to get elected. Elections now are less about a vision in which a leader and his/her political party intends to take the country or how it intends to address key issues than it is a daily unveiling of new entitlements for this group or that. They’re even called election promises because that’s what they are; promises of new government largess.
|Canadian Parliament Buildings|
You’ll never hear a politician standing for election give a rousing speech on how his/her party are going to ensure that the sewers are properly maintained or that more money will be put into upkeep of public property. That would be political suicide. Instead we’ve taught them to tell us what they’re going to do for us, how many tax breaks or new funds for new programs are going to be introduced. In the end, we talk about wanting good government but what we really want is more stuff.
Occupy likes to blame corporations for influencing governments with money and lobbyists but they’re only partly right. Everybody is in the game. Unions lobby, cajole and threaten. They spend money during elections for or against candidates based on which candidates will do the most for labour. Environmentalists lobby and fund advertising for the candidate they think will be most friendly to their cause and voters are right in there too. We want our share of the pie and none of us wants to hear talk about deficits or tax increases or program cuts. Instead we vote in large numbers for the person and party who promise they can fix everything without raising taxes while giving us even more goodies. We constantly hold out our hands for tax concessions, funding for our favourite program, free tuition for post-secondary education and even support for professional sports. Politicians recognizing the easy road to election pull out their check books full of promises barely stopping long enough to crunch numbers to see if we, the people, can actually afford what we demand.
When you reward bad behaviour, you teach those you reward to continue in that behaviour and we have taught politicians and government well.
We make excuses for politicians who lied to us during the last election just so we can re-elect them based on the new promises they are making. We are very forgiving of the politician we support who got caught in flagrante delectro with his pants around his ankles but extremely unforgiving of any who run against him. We don’t talk about issues in an objective and analytical manner we constantly look for information that will confirm the choice we’ve already made.
|Canadian House of Commons|
We have divided ourselves up into small special interest constituencies that go far beyond the 1% and the 99%. Those two defined group are no more homogeneous than the population of any major city in North America. There are as many on the left in the 1% as there are on the right and the 99% is divided even further into left, right, Tea Party, environmentalists, labour and the apathetic.
Someone said once that in a democracy, the people get what they deserve and while we complain and criticize, the simple truth is that we created the governments we have. We demanded entitlements beyond the ability of our society to pay for them and expected government to figure out where to get the money. In some ways we have taken the same attitude to government that we have to Black Friday, we all want a deal and we have taught politicians to be wary of being frank and honest with us by telling us we can’t have what we want because we can’t afford it. Past elections are littered with the dried out remains of failed politicians who were that foolish.
|Congress in session|
We talk about wanting good stable, efficient and responsible government but there aren’t too many of us prepared to give up what government gives our group to get it or to re-educate government to operate more effectively.
We are a society that pays film stars and professional athletes more than our political leaders; a society that pays rock stars more than teachers, police officers, paramedics and fire fighters. I don’t begrudge anyone the money they earn, even if it is in the millions. I just question a society that places a higher monetary value on winning American Idol than saving the life of someone who was trapped in a fire.
In the end, I think I question a society that devotes much of its waking hours to criticizing government but less time to actually doing something to change the attitudes of those in government….and in our ourselves.
© 2011 Maggie’s Bear
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