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The Third Rock Forum - Politics

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Is politics fit for purpose?
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Submitted : 05-06-2011 19:07
Amended : 10-11-2014 12:59
Status : Approved:  
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Is Politics fit for purpose?


Ask some people in polite company what is the function of politics and you will get a variety of answers.  One may say that politics is a means to exercising power. Another may say that politics is a way to managing social progress. There are many views to describe the function of politics.  Ask, what is the function of party politics and you will have a number of deferring views on this question too, but they will all refer to choice and democracy somewhere in their answers. One party may offer a much faster social progress than another. Another may offer a different kind of social progress.  All parties will want to convince you that you will enjoy the “Promised Land” if you vote for them.


Politicians, parties and governments will always claim that the reason for their existence is to make things better for people, to help the needy, to promote health, prosperity and happiness. In a word, to exercise power to manage the nation’s resources for the benefit of all citizens. There is no basis or reason why anyone should doubt their sincerity.  All of the above is valid in a world of academia. Now, compare the principle with the practice of politics.  To be more precise, compare the universal principles of politics with the practice of party politics in democratic societies.


Political parties developed a belief in the population that their policies will provide a better standard of living than that of their opponents. They have also convinced the population that their welfare programmes will look after those of the less fortunate and the ill and the infirm. The reason all political parties do this is to get into power or remain there. Seemingly, they will say anything that they think will put them into office. One could  say that the electorate deserve what they vote for. But as all parties behave in a similar way the electorate have no chance to distinguish between any of them on any other basis than prejudice. This was not a great problem while the nation’s wealth could support the cost of the political “Promised Land”. That was when the value of a nation’s currency was pegged to the value of gold which provided a natural boundary of expenditure for governments – that is, until 1971.


Since then, politicians could promise anything they liked and could pretend that they could afford anything they promised. If the cost turned out to be more than the nation could afford, then, they could either borrow the difference or print some more currency to fund their programmes. Each decade, the process of promising more and more and borrowing more and more to fund them escalated without the population understanding their fatal implications. We still think that governments can produce a higher standard of living if only they implemented the ‘right’ policies. We have forgotten that it is the wealth creating processes that produce a better standard of living. The very wealth creating processes that are required to pay for the welfare programmes that governments promise to the population.


The inevitable crash has happened. No, not the subprime mortgage issue and the subsequent international banking crisis. That is only an unfortunate side issue that serves as a convenient excuse.


I am referring to the country’s financial situation before the banking crisis, during the boom years. Here are the figures authenticated by the Office of National Statistics.


2004, - Total government expenditure 40.1% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), government borrowing, 35.5% of GDP.  Only 4.6% of the Gross Domestic Product was available to government to support Government expenditure. 


2005,  - Total government expenditure 40.1% of GDP, government borrowing, 37.4% of GDP.  Only 2.7% of the Gross Domestic Product was available to support Government expenditure.


2006,  - Total government expenditure 40.9% of GDP. government borrowing, 36.6% of GDP. Only 4.3% of the Gross Domestic Product was available to support Government expenditure.


2007-8 both the expenditure as a percentage of GDP and the borrowing requirements have grown, but they are not yet authenticated.


The absolute truth is that the Welfare State, including the NHS, care for the elderly and state pension provisions, is bankrupt and unsustainable.  Wait, please, until one of the politicians will inform you of that fact instead of arguing about cuts here and there.


The desired economic solutions, such as, rebuilding the wealth creating private economy and drastically reducing the wealth spending public sector is politically unacceptable. That which politicians set out to do
or promised that they will do is now politically impossible to achieve. This is not just in the UK.


The same applies in the USA and in the EU.  For example, it is a commonly held view that the euro, the common currency in the EU, is in crisis and the only way out, the only way to stabilize it is to created a Europe
wide Finance Ministry to control its value. That necessary economic development is totally impossible to achieve on political grounds. Is politics as practiced in the 21st Century fit for purpose?