Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Electing Better Politicians

Someone sent me a link to Lena Chen's blog, claiming that she had a photo I'd actually find interesting for this blog. I never thought in a million years Lena Chen's blogging and mine would have anything in common.


For those who don't link to other sites, according to a USA Today poll:
Responses to "Do you favor or oppose the federal government temporarily taking over major US banks in danger of failing in an attempt to stabilize them?": 54% favor, 44% oppose, 3% no opinion.

Responses to "Do you favor or oppose the federal government temporarily nationalizing major US banks in danger of failing in an attempt to stabilize them?": 37% favor, 57% oppose, 6% no opinion.

This image raises the notion that perhaps improving our educational system will improve the functioning of Congress. In my opinion, the rise of the media age has increased the extent to which our Congresspeople pander to the whims of public opinion. They are, in a sense, prioritizing getting re-elected over making a substantial difference.

This supports two ideas:
1) a more educated populace would mean politicians pandering to a more educated public. It would pay more dividends than just a more productive public.

2) Being a senator or representative should be an unpaid, part-time job. Otherwise, there's too much incentive for congresspeople to prioritize re-election (they lose their job if they don't win!)

I understand that there's still the power kick, and that's not going to go away easily. My next post will be an alternate system that may hold politicians more accountable.


  1. lol... the first thing I thought when I read your title was, "That's impossible." I watch a lot of "Yes, Minister," you see.

    Re #2: They tried that in ancient Rome, and, to some extent, imperial China. The effect was that the government was populated by two types of people: the very rich elite who didn't really need the money, or corrupt officials who used bribery to augment their meager income.

    (As a side-note: One Chinese official whose name I forget actually lived off his salary. That entailed living in a shack and eating a steady diet of watery rice and vegetables. True story)

    The read I got from the picture, though, is that people don't like the term "nationalize" vs. "taking over." "Taking over" is vague and innocuous sounding. "Nationalize" brings to mind Peron and Mugabe and other socialist types. It's psychology.

  2. yes I get the psychology, but that's a reasonably clear take that doesn't really have anything more for me to talk about. However, the effect is something that isn't as large when you're educated about it. Hence my education shtick

  3. Decent point about China etc, though. There's gotta be a way to improve it, other than "hang people for bribery"

  4. lol... but I'm sure even educated people can be fooled...

    I'm sure corruption has been addressed in the context of principal-agent problem. Wonder what people said about that.

    As a side-note: This kind of reminds me of a paper I heard about but haven't read (http://depocenwp.org/upload/pubs/TranNgocAnh/Corruption_and_Human_Development_-_Policy_Journal_DEPOCENWP.pdf) The author, who's at Harvard, got some data that is apparently so good that it's a bit mysterious. Don't know if it's related to your grander point, but may be a fun read; just thought I'd share.

  5. LOL, there's an International Handbook (on the Economics) of Corruption: