The democratic trap

Dear Editor,
For a long time now I’ve asked myself, why is it that the people that get elected oftentimes tend to have a weak or no moral compass? Is it that the person goes into office on the straight and narrow path and that the system changes them, sways them into wrongdoings? Or is it a certain class, a certain breed of people that are susceptible to shady dealings, with a lack of integrity, that tend to run?
The answer to these questions, as with many things in life, lies somewhere in between. Politics is regrettably a dirty game. We see it all around us as the spin-doctors do their best to spin, distract, and sway our opinions away from the facts. Who then would subjugate their selves to the scrutiny that is a public election? Only those who are unscrupulous, or as we more commonly refer to them “People with no shame”; those who don’t mind stooping to low levels to get in. To put it in an analogy: It’s like a boxing ring where you know the opponent will fight dirty and the referee isn’t even looking.
Fair, honest, well reasoning, educated people, tend to steer clear of such a toxic arena. And so, we have ourselves a perfect “Catch 22” in which we end up with elected officials that will say anything, promise the world, or even resort to the illegal practice of vote-buying just to get themselves into office. While those who can make a change for the better, for all the people, tend to give a wide berth to the entire ring. (Fortunately, we have seen a step in the right direction here as a select few have risen up and have challenged the norm).
In this piece I intend to delve into the short term vs. long term mindset when it comes to voting for your elected officials, tackling some of the pitfalls of the short-term timeframe and giving actionable steps to prevent us from making the same mistakes over and over.
In an interview I watched not too long ago Saifedean Ammous stated that the time preference for the younger generation has become much shorter. When last have you heard young people talking about the nice returns they received from their savings account? Probably not recently, as the interest rates the banks give are laughable, or even negative in some parts of the world. This shorter term time preference is a result of inflation eroding our purchasing power and our planning for the future.
Why do I bring this up? We can’t really do much about the US dollar inflating. That is correct, however, what we see is that this short-term time preference also rears its ugly head during elections. All too often and all too easily our very own sell their vote for $100, a new fridge, the promise of a favour. I’m here to warn those very same people, careful that you’re not getting the raw end of that deal. Your vote is worth much more than that! Every time a vote is sold “cheaply” you pay it back 100-fold through shifty dealings, nepotism, lack of accountability, and mismanagement in our roads, healthcare, education, sports, cost of energy, social security (or lack thereof), affordable housing, basically all facets of life are adversely affected by taking the path of quick gratification.
Some might argue who can blame them? If you’re struggling to put food on the table $100 can carry you a long ways. And that is exactly where the democratic trap sets in. The powers that be would like to keep you exactly there, struggling with your hand out. Why?
A struggling nation is a cheap nation.
As my wise colleague always says, “een kinder hand is snel gevuld,” which translates to “a child’s hand is easily filled.” Meaning, you’ll be more inclined to take the deal operating from a place of strive and struggle. A prospering society that can properly take care of their basic needs will be far more discerning, they will demand much more from their elected officials, meaning that those officials would actually have to work.
Therefore, I ask all of you reading this piece to stick out your biggest hand and ask far more from our elected officials. When they come with the $100 bill you tell them, keep it, I want:
Accountability
Good corporate governance
A government based on meritocracy
Good roads
Affordable housing
Affordable energy
Proper healthcare
A livable minimum wage
Public spaces for the people
A more robust, sustainable economy
A lot more, but most importantly a government I can be proud of.
All of which require long-term strategic planning, holistic approaches, and a pro-active attitude mixed with common sense that seems to be sorely lacking with the current coalition.
So, come next elections – no, better yet, we can start today! When talking to your friends, family, co-workers raise the awareness, especially amongst the most vulnerable in our society, tell them to make a well-informed decision. Don’t sell out. Aim for the longer term. Look at who has put us in the situation we are in now (to be very clear, it is the NA, UP, and USP), do we want more of that? It’s time we elect leaders with a long-term time preference, not those that through their own actions have to worry about whether or not they’ll be there after the next elections. Enough is enough!

David Salomon

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