Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Why We Are Forced To Elect Fools

They have set out on the long road of electing a new president for the United States of America.
By this time next year, the new man, or woman, will be in place.
But what kind of choice does the American electorate have?
Are they choosing between McCain and Obama and Huckabee and Romney and Clinton and Edwards and Guilliani to find the best person to run their country?
Of course they're not.
What they are doing, is choosing between a bunch of people all of whom found it possible to raise millions, nay, tens of millions of dollars in their bids to reach the White house.
The best person to run the United States - whoever it may be - isn't in the race.
Indeed, of the seven mentioned above, it's likely that not one would be in the top ten thousand of those capable of running the US, let alone the top seven.

Let me say here, I don't know of a system better than democracy. But, regardless, democracy is flawed. At least, it's flawed in the way it is practised in virtually every country in which it is employed.
In the United States, and to a degree in other wealthy democracies, it is only those who have enormous financial backing, who can go forward for election.
In other countries, such as Britain or Ireland - indeed, most European democracies - it is generally only those who have the backing of large political parties who can put themselves forward for election.
The result, in Ireland at least, is a very, very narrow choice.
If it were not for the fact that Irish politicians are litigious in the extreme, I would name those that only a fool would elect.
There are plenty of them.
Our parliament if full of sons and daughters of politicians. It is populated by the widows of politicians, by their nieces and nephews, cousins and in-laws.
It is full of dynasties.
And they are people unafraid to pay themselves large amounts of our money. They collect, in expenses, seven and eight times the sums pensioners are awarded - by them - to live on for a year.
They take inordinately long holidays.
And they preside over - in Ireland - a shambolic health system, organised crime running rampant, an insufficient number of schools, a road system chronically bad because it has been built to facilitate the opening of land for development rather than for the convenience of commuters, a social welfare system that sees tens of thousands living in poverty and a climate of greed and "I'm all right Jack" that has seen the rich become considerably richer in recent years and the poor left to fend for themselves on the crumbs.
We are, at election time, presented with a list of fools from which we are asked to choose our representatives.
We are not asked to vote for those whom we wish to elect, but those whom the political parties which us to elect.
And so we try to choose the least foolish who may nonetheless be a fool.
And tragically, the only ones who can change the system, are the fools we elect.
We should, for example, not permit the relatives of deceased TDs to take the seats of their departed family members.
We should allow a choice of "none of the above" for voters on election day. And those reject should be barred for ten year from presenting themselves for election again.
But is as likely as pigs voting on whether rashers should be smoked or maple. It is as likely as a sheep suggesting that it may as well be hung, as a lamb.
We are stuck with fools, often dishonest fools, often lazy fools, but certainly fools.
Are we are stuck with countries badly run by people who couldn't run them well even if they wanted to. Which they don't.
That's why they have dictators here and there.
And it's why the prospect isn't all that appalling.

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