Friday, September 05, 2008

"The time for stupid statements is over."

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about politics in this blog, which is weird, as I claim not to be that interested in the damn business.

I think it's because a big chunk of my daily ration of cruft and filler (rubbish text IOW) concerns politics and it's easier to bloviate on the subject of politics than on something important, like particle physics, neuroscience, business, graphic novels, computers, engineering, science fiction, or transhumanism.

In that spirit I have a question: why is it that journalists think political speeches are so important? Why are they so important? Why do so many people watch them?

The important thing in politics is the substance of a candidate's policy. Her character is a secondary, but important, consideration. But I also think it's impossible to accurately judge a person's character unless you have the opportunity to meet them and have a frank, private, face-to-face discussion. In the absence of this there is very little you can do to determine the character of an individual.

Speeches and interviews and debates show you a human being trying to show themselves off. They do not demonstrate the character of that human being.

In the real world I'd be happy with two things from any political candidate: a postcard with the elevator-pitches for their policies, and a chit signed by several randomly-selected qualified psychiatrists affirming that the candidate is a sane, well-balanced, mentally and emotionally healthy human being.

Assuming the candidate isn't stark-raving bonkers then the only thing that actually matters is policy. And policy is much better expressed in text than in some speech.

A political speech is essentially a sales-pitch: "vote for me." But as everyone knows when dealing with salesmen you always have to read the small print. Just listening to them isn't enough. In fact it's a downright bad idea - it gives them the opportunity to play you for a sucker.

When making a purchase or casting a vote, you need to read the details of what you're getting, ask the candidate a few questions for clarification (and ask them to reply by email) and that's all you need to do.

I don't buy into this nonsense of politicians as "leaders." They are servants of the public, tasked with optimally allocating the funds of the state. We're not being lead into battle (whatever certain War-on-[ill-defined-presumed-social-ill] agitprop-spouting spin-doctors will tell you) and it is inappropriate to suggest otherwise.

Update 07/09/2008:

Check out these images from Wordle via Wired regarding the speeches at the recent American party conventions:

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