Few thoughts on current political situation


There's a lot of recent political debacles: US elections, Brexit, Orban, PiS, Nazis in Slovak parliament and so on. They all seem to have similar dynamics. (Note: What follows may not apply beyond EU and US.)


In all the cases a lot of people tend to be enraged by "politics as usual" which is understood as a synonym for political corruption. They flock to anyone promising a change. Eight years ago they've supported Obama with explicit slogan of "Change", last year it was Trump with "Drain The Swamp" slogan. Same applies to various reincarnations of Nazis, Commies etc.


At the same time confidence in the democratic political system as such declines. The system is seen as meaningless alternation of political leaders pursuing exactly the same corrupt policies.


Given that the political system requires each person to squeeze all their political preferences into simple yes/no vote ("Trump" vs. "Clinton", "Remain" vs. "Leave" etc.) there's not much space for expressing more complex opinions. Try to empathize with a person who says one of the following things and honestly employ all your intelligence and knowledge to choose one of the candidates to vote for: "I've voted for Obama twice but nothing have changed for me." "My job is now done by a Polish guy for half of my original wage." "Fuck 1%!" "My kids have no future in this town." "Let those corrupt bastards suffer!" "I'm flipping burgers for $8/hr." "Childcare is not really accessible for me." "Nuke the muslims!" "When am I going to get bailed out?" "Eventually, even white collar jobs will be off-shored." Make sure that all those concerns are expressed as a either "yes" or "no" vote, with no qualifications attached, and what you get is weird electoral results, such as those we are observing.


It looks like there's a lot of political polarization out there, but if you take a closer look everyone, except for the extremes on the both sides, is saying basically the same thing: The candidate I have voted for may be corrupt, but it's still better than the alternative. Voting for the lesser evil is the sign of the times.


Now that the elections have resulted in some really scary stuff, we are in firefighting mode. I've personally donated to several causes and I urge you to do the same. If you won't, you may end up as a nuclear fried chicken. That being said, I think I've heard a distinct sigh of relief from the liberals when Trump was elected: "Now there's someone to fight and so we can ignore those pesky practical problems for a little bit longer!" But let's not fool ourselves: If we spend next four years obstructing Trump, ignoring the problems that make people crave change in the first place, the next person elected will be Pol Pot.


And the really scary thing, scarier that Putin, Trump and Duterte combined, is that it seems that almost nobody acknowledges the problem. And for those few who do, the solution seems to be: "Let's flock to <insert-strongman-of-your-choice-here> and he'll magically solve all of our problems!"


And if you are thinking of proposing a solution yourself consider this: Dictatorship won't work. People mistrust politicians in principle. Reverting the left-wing party to what it was in early 20th century won't work. People mistrust political parties in principle. Establishing a new third-way party won't work. There's no reason for people to believe that a new party will be less corrupt than the old parties. And I think they have a point.


So, here's a proposal from myself: Let's polarize the discussion around representative vs. direct democracy axis.


I am not going to discuss merits of direct democracy vs. representative democracy here. However, let me say the following. While direct democracy, giving each single person a say in wide variety of topics, sounds like a liberal's dream, actual direct democracy, with most people being naturally conservative, tends to adopt relatively conservative policies. So, both sides would have to bite the bullet. At the same time, the prospect is attractive to both sides because it focuses directly on the problem of corruption. If the official's duty is to implement a policy adopted by a popular vote, there's little incentive to bribe them in the first place.

Martin Sústrik, Feb 6th, 2017

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