Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What's the Point of Politics?

One thing you can't accuse American presidential elections of is being boring. The news this morning that Sarah Palin's (unmarried) 17 year old daughter is pregnant is just the latest twist in a script right out of The West Wing meets Juno.

But for all it's entertainment value (at least to those of us watching from the global sidelines) the whole thing does beg the question: what's the point of politics? Don Boudreaux has an amusing piece over at the Cafe Hayek blog which refers to the more humdrum experience we all have of politics at the local level:
If a stranger knocks on your door and tells you that he or she is here for the express purpose of helping you, of serving you, of making your life better -- not because of anything that he or she will gain by doing so, but because he or she believes in your goodness and knows that you deserve more than you have -- what would you think? Would you give this person the benefit of the doubt, and trust that he or she really and truly is motivated chiefly and overwhelmingly by a desire to serve you?
We've all had the experience of a local councillor or TD (or aspirant one) calling to offer their help. In middle class areas such as where I live I doubt they get a lot of requests. It's presumably a lot different in working class areas (if only because those on lower/no incomes are more vulnerable to the uncaring predations of the state and need every help they can get).

I think that is the greatest challenge facing our local and national politicians right now: how to be relevant. The major issues facing our country are global in nature and not amenable to Acts of the Oireachtas (the economy, climate change), while the major local issues we face in our communities are often best addressed by each of us taking responsibility for our own actions (refuse collection etc.) Mind you, you only have to go north of the border to realise just how much better off we might be without politicians - or the petulant kind lambasted in today's Irish Times.

I prefer soap operas to slapstick myself.

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