In Praise of Low Needs
3 hours ago
The Scorekeepers “are non-ideological pragmatists who trust or distrust each side equally. They tend to see politics not as a contest of world views, but merely as alternate teams of possible managers of government, each contending that they can do a better job. The Scorekeepers are not choosing directions in their votes, they are hiring managers.”
Our electoral system is the reason why each campaign seems more reductionist and vacuous than the last. The parties are competing for an ever more cleverly identified few thousand wavering voters in marginal constituencies. Pollsters find these few vague voters hardly think about politics at all. They are difficult to engage even for a fleeting moment, don't read papers but may vote if taken by some slogan that catches their eye. Most people are not like that: even if party tribalism has weakened, these target voters tend to be exceptionally uninterested in politics. Yet everything depends on them.
So, what would be wrong with someone who avoids, as far as possible, all political knowledge - they don’t buy a newspaper, ignore political websites, don’t watch TV news, turn off the radio when the news comes on, and so on?
The obvious answer is that paying attention to politics isn’t a matter of narrow utility maximizing. We should do so because virtue requires it. Being a good citizen requires us to follow politics.
But does it? There’s a long tradition of people shunning public life: monks, hermits, Voltaire advising us to cultivate our gardens, MacIntyre urging us to retreat into local communities. And what’s virtuous about wishing to impose one’s own ego and limited knowledge onto the rest of society?
Nor is it the case that ignorance about politics need, in principle, be associated with general ignorance or incuriosity. It’s perfectly possible in principle to be very informed and cultured on all sorts of matters whilst paying no attention to politics - just as one can be clever and cultivated whilst being ignorant about, say, fruit flies or medieval plainchant
Politicians are not administrators. [...] they are often "empty suits" [...] persons who are good at looking the part but nothing more. [...] what they have is skill in getting promoted within a political party rather than pure skills in making optimal decisions - we call that "political skill."
A journalist is trained in methods to express himself rather that to plumb the depths of things - the selection process favors the most communicative, not necessarily the most knowledgeable.
Departments of state and, with them, great swaths of public spending, are treated as political spoils. With Geoff Hoon's resignation as transport secretary, this department alone will have had four secretaries of state in three years. It's a similar story in defence, with environment and energy only marginally less hard hit; these are all departments with long-term planning horizons, but whose political leaders are birds of passage. What chance is there of difficult decisions being taken? Systematic policy developed? Of careful attention invested in how effectively and efficiently cash is spent?
Why not have the Lords elected for terms of (say) 12 years, and also have a term limit of one term per person?
Have 300 lords with 1/3 elected every four years.
Also set a time-limit of say, 12 years, until people who have served in the Commons can subsequently run for office in the Lords.
Combine this with an upper age limit of 35 for lords and you have a chamber that consists of older (and hence more experienced) non-career politicians that are not required to respond to every tabloid-editor’s whim or whip’s demand and can use their own moral and intellectual judgement on whether to accept or reject legislation.
Also you need to have separation of the legislature and executive, have independence of tenure of the legislature (i.e. elections every four years), and use the STV PR system to select MPs in the Commons.
And I still want my pony.