The limitations of politics


In response to Ron Coleman’s post “Personal Savior”, where Ron asks if a President Obama would help bridge the right – left divide:

Obama and the Democrats have no intention of bridging the ideological right-left divide. They have made it clear that their goal is to win, win, win. McCain would bridge it if he could, but elections are confrontational, zero-sum kind of things. In each political confrontation, only one team can win. Expecting the red team and the blue team to join hands, work together and sing kumbaya before (and immediately after) the big game is kind of unrealistic.

This is one reason why politics can’t provide a solution to all of our problems. In contrast to politics, trade and technology are not zero-sum games. They rely on a combination of cooperation and competition. As a result, business and technology tend to provide real and lasting benefits to the population at large.

Who has done more to solve the problems of the world’s poor – Adam Smith, Karl Marx or Norman Borlaug?

Politicians are bureaucrats. Their job is to maintain the infrastructure – maintain the roads, pick up the garbage, pay the bills. If we listen to the debates, we can see that McCain and Obama are both reasonably competent bureaucrats. When the press isn’t looking, and when the extreme fans of both teams are busy stirring up trouble somewhere else, they are both capable of temporarily bridging the right-left divide to get some work done. That’s all we should expect of them.

Americans have, historically, been pragmatic, self-reliant people who tend to avoid real visionaries like the plague. This is good, because true visionaries usually cause more problems than they solve. Historically, Americans have tended to avoid relying on the state, or messianic politicians, to solve our problems.

Since Europeans rely on the state to solve their problems, Europe embraces visionaries and extremists. The Left in Europe is more left than we have ever been, and the right is more extreme too. In America, lipstick-wearing white supremacists tend to be relegated to the sidelines, or to jail. In Europe, they become heads of state.

Old fashioned pragmatist/entrepreneurs like T. Boone Pickens avoid joining either team, but in the last decade, most of us have have declared our political alliances. This loss of individuality and independence isn’t confined to individuals; comedy shows, college classes, talk shows, actors, rock bands – all feel the need to declare which political team they belong to. In the nineties, people rarely talked about politics. I didn’t know what party most of my friends belonged to. I didn’t care. Back in the ’90’s, the only dividing lines were MACs vs. Windows. Now I know where everyone stands politically. This is not a good trend.

The more we rely on our red and blue saviors, the more team spirit we have, the more European we become.


About marypmadigan

Writer/photographer (profession), foreign policy wonk (hobby).
This entry was posted in domestic politics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The limitations of politics

  1. paolo says:

    Good point. Is it right? Is it wrong? The election choices nowadays don’t reflect ideals, but the lesser evil, the one that gets the most bugs out of our lives — besides the other brand.

  2. Mary Madgian says:

    Most people usually do vote for the lesser evil. That was especially true in the last election, when “Kerry haters for Kerry” bumper stickers were popular.

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