Hypothesis: Politicians must work to prevent their opponents from delivering good solutions to the public
Imagine for a moment two politicians, A and B. They both have good ideas, run for office and B wins.
How should A and A’s supporters behave from that point forward? What should be their focus?
The idealistic view of this game we call politics says A should graciously accept defeat and move on to continue working for the people as he or she presumably did prior to the elections.
Reality, however, as is often the case, is very different. There are at least three scenarios for A to consider once B is in power:
- B implements his or her policies, they work and people are measurably satisfied and happy
- B implements these policies, they fail and people are measurably unhappy with the results
- B isn’t allowed to implement any policies, people don’t know any better
From A’s perspective the first scenario is a complete disaster. Yes, the country, city or town will be better off given the success of the policies as implemented by B, yet the big loser here is A and, by extension, A’s party.
By allowing B to implement good policies that work A is almost guaranteed to lose the next election and, again, by extension, A’s party might slowly lose support and elections.
The second scenario, one where B’s policies fail, is excellent for A because it almost guarantees a win for both A and A’s party during the next elections.
This is, of course, the “fair” or altruistic option: Allow B to implement these new ideas based on the fact that the people voted B into office and let the ideas either succeed or fail on their own.
How about option #3? Well, this is the defense against option #1. If A knows these policies are good then he or she also knows their implementation would be a disaster for A and A’s party. The logical option is to interfere and trip-up B in any way possible and prevent these policies from being implemented at all.
With this, the population will focus on the political game rather than on the policies. Blame will be placed on various actors on both the A and B sides yet, when election time comes around, A will have the better strategic position and a far better probability of either A or A’s party to win the election.
And this is why, politics, as we know it today, has devolved into a game where the interests of the people, the voters, you, me and your kids, isn’t even relevant to the players. Their interest isn’t in helping us win but rather helping themselves and their political parties win.
This conclusion, if accepted as true, means that at least half our politicians are far more focused on making their opposition fail than on helping good ideas succeed. And that’s how we got to where we are today. Our politicians can’t deliver results on just about anything and when something does push it’s way through this process it is far more likely to be harmful than not. If A allows B to implement something harmful the next election is a win for A.
The Pavlovian reward system in place in the political game rewards this behavior. We need a way to reward behavior that benefits the people and the nation directly and only compensates politicians when they cooperate for the common good.
From the perspective of anyone attempting to look for logical common-sense solutions to problems this is maddeningly insane. And it would not be too far of a stretch to consider the idea that the system of government prescribed by our Constitution has now been gamed to such an extent that it is utterly obsolete. The idea of “Government of the people, by the people and for the people” is but an illusion with altruistic ancient roots.