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Government Distrust

POLITICAL SHOPPING

Lastly, and this is getting really tiresome, we have the issue of private money finding its way into political coffers as a pre-payment for political influence once election time has passed. Basically is a pay-now enjoy later product. The OECD says:

Money is a necessary component of the democratic processes, enabling elections for representation and help competition but can also put at risk the legitimacy, inclusiveness and fairness of public decision making.

Not really

Let's begin by saying that money is not, repeat not a "necessary component of the democratic process"… at least not in the vast quantities that politicians are now accustom to get (particularly in the USA - so much for the "bastion of democracy"). Although it is true that a little amount of money is necessary, vast amounts are not. The only reason why such quantities of money are necessary is because politicians keep trying to influence people through marketing techniques. The problem is that less and less people are willing to listen, which means that more and more money is necessary to "convince" them. Should politicians present programs highly agreeable with peoples' wishes, none of this would be necessary. Take for example Norway where there are strict limits to campaign spending and a reasonable amount of government funding. As a consequence of this, campaigns are shorter and more effective and the voter turnout has been hovering in the area of 80% since 1942.

Secondly, as Norway and Slovenia proved, money is not such a large enabler of elections; people are, and people want their ideas to be implemented. In this battle of ideas competition takes place, but competition is only mildly improved by money. What matters are ideas. The root issue is that people are all different and as such they cannot stomach any longer the one-solution-fits-all that democratic systems implement. They want personal freedom not "democratic" so-called freedom. And this reality cannot be changed by how much money is spent.

The concept that somehow "legitimacy, inclusiveness and fairness" can be compromised by vast amounts of money is also ludicrous. Legitimacy comes from voter turnover which can hardly be influenced by money. Inclusiveness also depends on people in terms of which section of society decides to vote and which one does not. How exactly does one exclude or include large enough social groups to such a degree as to make a political difference by means of money? This is simply not possible.

Lastly, we have the notion that "fairness" in "public decision making" can be influenced by money. How exactly is this possible? What is the exact definition of unfair in those circumstances? It is true that a percentage of public opinion may be swayed one way or another spending vast amounts of money but this is far from being guaranteed. How exactly does this swaying (if it happens) becomes unfair? If candidate A got more money than candidate B, so what? How is that "unfair" just because A got more support than B? In ultimate analysis every political campaign is a marketing campaign and as such subjective and personal. As such it is not possible to define objective from subjective and "good" or "bad" thus allowed or disallowed political topics. All topics are in. But if all topics are in, everything goes. Spending more money or less money only emphasizes one candidate over another but at the end of the day; all voters' decisions are subjective. But if they are all subjective, it is impossible to define "unfair" from an objective point of view. What is "unfair" for one person is "fair" for the next one. Also, as everything goes and everything is subjective, spending vast amounts of money may re-define what some people believed to be "bad" as "good". But then again, so what? The definitions of "good" and "bad" were subjective to begin with! The short version is that in the midst of subjective judgement calls it is impossible to define "unfair".

Note: incidentally, it is for this very reason that we are Libertarians. Because in a sense voting is "purchasing" a future and as with any other economic transaction, it is personal and subjective. What is unfair is that the majority gets to decide subjectively what the minority will be forced to "buy" as the winning party takes over. This is patently unfair unlike a simple matter of political founding.

Finances and Influences

Passed this introduction the OECD proposes yet another one of its in-famous guidance documents. This one is called "Money in Politics: Sound Political Competition and Trust in Government". This booklet is reasonably large (50 pages) and hence we won't be discussing it in detail; we will only highlight its most important points.

Money influences politics. Parties and candidates are answerable to their donors. This is correct and this is one of the reasons why democracy is broken. Because you have first class citizens (donors) and second class (everybody else). Policies are not decided by vote but by influence.

Either money influences electoral results or donors prefer winners in which case money does not influence electoral results. Basically, we don't have accurate scientific results in this area. But this does not really matter because whichever party wins there will always be oppressed people (i.e. the minority). Does it really matter if party A wins over party B? No, it is only a matter of tyrannical degrees.

There are distinguishable degrees of influence. There is influence within the limits of discretionary power and the one beyond such limits. But then again, does this really matter? Politicians do not make such distinctions in practice as they routinely break key electoral promises and laws. Does it really matter if a promise was somehow broken or completely broken? It is like stating that a woman is "somewhat pregnant". A broken promise is a broken promise, but because promises are not contracts politicians change their mind all the time with no consequences. Does it really matter to what degree they do so and for what reason? No. The consequences for you and us are the same. Does it matter if politicians break laws by re-writing them or by ignoring them? Of course not. The damage will be the same. The OECD also suggests that the first type of influence is within the realm of trust while the second is not. But this is not the case. Again, a broken promise is a broken promise this is the core of the "trust" issue that is not being addressed.

Money is a channel for political participation. The idea here is that through donations people will support the party closer to their political preferences. This is correct. What this point misses is that such support is done as a last resort and only as a compromise. Everybody has different political opinions and since there is no one party that reflects them all, people need to settle for the closest one there is. But this is utterly unsatisfactory. If we consider that voting is in effect purchasing a given future, why would you be forced to buy margarine just because it is spreadable over bread if in reality you want butter? And what happens with those who want strawberry jelly? Well, they will have to eat margarine. And those who do not want anything spreadable at all? Margarine too. Why? Because this party is the only one that offers some bread. Yes, money is a channel for political participation but it is very pathetic one at that.

The abuse of administrative resources must be fought. The idea being that using "government property" for political campaigns is "bad". OK. We can see that, but then, why is that the big picture is swept conveniently under the rug? The core issue is that "government property" exists at all, not that somebody is "abusing" it (this kind of "abuse" was considered previously when we discussed Conflicts of Interest). The distrust is on the existence and use of "government property" and not on its "abuse".

Large private donations must be limited. Apparently this should be so because these donors can tip the balance of "fair" competition. And here we go again. As we explained before, in politics there is no such thing as a "fair competition". In this particular case it would seem that since a point of view of a few super-rich donors can prevail, this is somehow unfair. But every single electoral process is unfair. It does not matter who wins there is always a minority who loses. This is unfair yet according to the OECD this would be OK because it is "democratic". Furthermore, in many electoral processes the party that wins changes its policies dramatically once in power to align themselves with a minority point of view. This is unfair yet again OK because it is "democratic". The reality would seem to be that if an election injuries the socialistic sensitivities of OECD apparatchiks, it becomes "unfair". Is this characterization fair? Absolutely! Trust has nothing to do with large private donations and everything to do with policy decisions because these decisions are one-size-fits-all and thus unsatisfactory for the vast majority of people at all times and in all elections.

Grassroot donations are the solution. This is yet another dumb idea. As people evolve politically they come to realize that the democratic system is dead. As such they become less active in politics and as such they donate less. This is a fact. And so the OECD proposes "incentives" for people to donate more such as tax credits. The problem is that these "incentives" are monetary and as such they do not address the fact that people don't want a democratic system any longer. If you go shopping for milk because you need milk, would you purchase coffee beans from Madagascar just because they are on sale, further considering that you only drink tea? Of course not. Same here.

State oversight is the solution to prevent donor influence. Sure. Let's see. A government bureaucrat whose job depends on the decision of politicians will police those very same politicians. Not only that, but this person will do this job honestly. Not only that, but people are supposed to trust this bureaucrat. Right… right… and the moon is made of cheese…

Public scrutiny is the solution to prevent donor influence. Sure. Let's see. Now that the state has been proven utterly ineffective in dealing with this "problem", it is dumped on people. And we go back to the issue of resources. Who exactly has the time and manpower to exercise such scrutiny on an ongoing basis? Nobody. And even if such an organization would exist, they don't have any actual power to do anything meaningful with this information. What can they do? Point out that there is a possible link between donors and policies? So what? Politicians will simply tell them: prove it! And then what? Well, essentially nothing. But people are supposed to trust governments because now there is "public scrutiny". OK. Whatever. This is yet another dead end in OECD fairyland.

Building trust through transparency. This is getting repetitive. It would seem that somehow it is possible to limit donor influence if political parties keep accurate and publicly available financial transaction logs. And what is the proposed mechanism? We go back to offloading onto the public. Apparently the OECD believes that people are stupid. People will, of course, look at obscure books belonging to parties instead of focusing on actual policies, rules and regulations affecting their lives. But that's OK because the availability of such books will make people trust the government. Sure. Whatever.

CONCLUSION

This is the fifth article in a series of six detailing why you should not trust governments. Most of the information was kindly (and ridiculously expensively) collated by the OECD for our perusal… although we are pretty sure that this was not what they had in mind when they did so. The bottom line is simple; you should not trust governments because they act dishonestly and unfairly. They don't have written contracts with us and as such we are subjected to their ever-changing will. They talk about corruption and abuse of "public property" but the key problem is that they have stolen our properties and they manage them at their discretion; "government properties" are not our properties and as such we have exactly zero rights over them. They talk about negative lobbying influence for political gain but they conveniently ignore that the reason why such influence exists in the first place is because we have governments who are the owners of "government properties" and as such influencing is cost-effective. Governments themselves are telling us that so far they have failed in earning our trust! But if they have failed in so doing for over 200+ years, what are the chances that this time will truly be different? Isn't this reason enough not to trust them?

More to come in the last article.

Meanwhile, if you feel that you have been wronged by this article, it is your right to feel so. Next time you have your scheduled consultancy meeting with your "representative", please feel free to mention this article but don't you dare lobbying this person.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

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