The fundamental problem of politics

The fundamental problem of politics is this:

The skills you need to get elected to government are completely different from the skills you need to govern effectively.

So we elect people who have one set of skills (perform well in front of a camera, exude easy charm, come up with attractive sound-bites); then when they form a government we find they lack the other set of skills (clear thought, compassion, respect for experts, assiduous attention to detail).

All our problems follow from this.

6 responses to “The fundamental problem of politics

  1. And also, politics as a career choice seems to have a tendency to attract a lot of individuals who driven more by a greed for power rather than by a true commitment to public service.

  2. Not just politics. I’ve often had to work with people who clearly possessed great interview skills but had no adaptability whatsoever for the actual job they were hired to do, and didn’t even seem to see that as something important. And, as they tend to easily get promoted, I’ve often had to work for people like that.

  3. “The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

    To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

    To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

    To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.

    And so this is the situation we find: a succession of Galactic Presidents who so much enjoy the fun and palaver of being in power that they very rarely notice that they’re not.

    And somewhere in the shadows behind them—who? Who can possibly rule if no one who wants to do it can be allowed to?”

    Douglas Adams

  4. The Douglas Adams quote is also true, and also important, but it’s making a slightly different point. He is saying that that the kinds of people who want power shouldn’t be allowed to have it; I am saying that those with the ability to attain power do not (necessarily) have the ability to use use it. This tendency has I think reached its apothetosis over the last few years with the Eton-and-Bullingdon cadre who explicitly see UK politics as a competitive game in which the goal is to one-up your old school chums, and who have absolutely no idea what to do with the Prime Ministership when they actually attain it.

  5. Somebody said something about democracy being the worst form of government.

    But democracy gives us something no other system does or can: peaceful transfers of power. And that outweighs all its problems.

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