April 01, 2005
Polly on Politics.
Polly Toynbee goes out campaigning and doesn’t like what she finds:
They behave like shoppers not citizens, using the ballot box as their customer complaints department, treating their MP like a door-to-door salesman.
Well, yes, that’s the whole damn point. There are some things that are better done collectively (the arguments are over which and how many, not the existence of the very basic thought) and we, the citizenry, hire politicians to manage those for us. The campaigning MP is exactly a door to door salesman, trying to convince each voter individually of his special talents for performing that task. The ballot box is exactly that, the customer complaints department, it is our once every few years opportunity to ask whether our hirelings have been doing a good job or whether we want to throw the bastards out and hire someone else.
You know, this thing called democracy.
As to the more basic disagreement with Polly Pot’s philosophy, the sub-editor sums up her point thus:
Going door-to-door in Braintree you see what Labour is up against: a nation of sour and selfish consumers
Well, quite. The advantage of my sort of view of politics and economics, that each individual is motivated by their enlightened self interest, is that it actually turns out to be true. People are selfish, people are indeed selfish consumers. There’s a heirarchy of motivations, from self to family to tribe (or neighbourhood) to nation to species to planet and so on, and the trick is to understand that and design the system so that such motivations produce the best possible result. Rather than, like say the Bolsheviks, attempt to create New Soviet Man, work with human nature rather than attempt to change it.
That, at the heart of it, is what I think is wrong with the Pollster’s view of the world, I think she bases her ideas on her desire that humans should be better humans. Sbe may even be correct in that we should be better than we are, but that is not the way to run a country, no, better to accept that humans are as they are and then work for the best harnessing of those motivations possible, just as we accept the laws of gravity, of the inheritance of genetic characteristics and the non inheritance of acquired ones (unlike, say, Lysenko), even, the two basic laws of economics, that incentives matter and that there is no such thing as a free lunch.
My view of the world may be less moral but I am convinced that it offers a better platform to make it work better.
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You just have to look at her stomach-turning assessment of New Labour, and her conclusion that this administration has not extended its reach far enough to achieve the socialist utopia she dreams of. Makes you wonder how someone can go through life and not realise - from empirical evidence alone, regardless of the ever-increasing weight of science proof - that people are fundamentally and unchangeably self-interested. What does she know that I don't? Answers on a postcard.
Posted by: Bill K | Apr 1, 2005 5:03:40 PM