Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What Politicians Really Think

A political "gaffe," according to Michael Kinsley, is when a politician tells the truth. It is like an actor "breaking character."

In Britain today, in the middle of their General Election campaign they, are enjoying a "gaffe" committed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Brown was accosted by a 66-year-old Labour supporter who asked him about "immigration from Eastern Europe, tuition fees and the national debt." Brown handled the woman pretty well, but was overheard later describing her as "a bigoted woman."

Shades of Barack Obama describing the Pennsylvania voters in small towns that lost jobs years ago.

And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.

Politicians are a funny lot. On the one hand they claim to care about the people and their needs. On the other hand they ruthlessly exploit them and divide them in their election campaigns. And behind their backs they sneer at them or patronize them.

The joke is on the politicians, of course. Voters wouldn't care about immigration if the politicians ran a sensible immigration policy and if there wasn't such a demand for low-skilled workers created by the welfare state. Voters wouldn't care about the debt if politicians had done their job properly and refrained from gunning the economy to buy votes. Voters wouldn't care about free trade if the politicians hadn't created subsidies for powerful industries that allowed them to ignore the global market trends. And voters wouldn't care about race if politicians didn't inject "racism" into everything.

What this all adds up to is a corrupt and cynical elite that ought to have been pitched out of power half a century ago. They've bribed the electorate on the one hand, and betrayed them on the other. They talk about the short-term vices of corporations but they themselves never think beyond the next vote and the next election.

Power is power, and powerful people hang onto power, in politics, in culture, and in the commanding heights of the economy.

In the short term, of course, powerful people get what they want: money, power and the love of beautiful women. But in the long term all powerful people manage to do is stave off the inevitable. And that only makes the inevitable adjustment--or explosion--bigger than it needs to be.

What a shame.

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