Westerners have possibly never had less confidence in their politicians than right now. Confidence is so low that an ever-increasing number of people are losing their faith in democracy. Most people are aware that politicians are basically crooks, but it often hard to say precisely why. This essay explains why there are no honest people in politics.
The simple reason why there are no honest people in politics is because they are either filtered out before they get to the top representative level, or they are made to keep their mouths shut while at that level. This is achieved by a variety of mechanisms, some calculated and some incidental.
One of these mechanisms, a very deeply calculated one, was made apparent in New Zealand by the Jami-Lee Ross saga and the ensuing revelations about the National Party culture and its inner workings. It turned out that the National Party had taken six-figure sums worth of dodgy donations in exchange for pulling strings for those donors, and kept it secret. Many members of the National Party were aware of this corrupt conduct, but said nothing until Ross blew the doors open.
Getting to the top only sometimes involves demonstrating competence and winning the respect of your peers. Sometimes it involves finding out secrets about other people and using them to threaten those people into obedience. The value of a piece of information is inversely proportional to the number of people who know it, and therefore there is an incentive to keep secrets. If you can’t demonstrate that you can keep secrets, you can’t be trusted by the other members of your party – after all, the party will have secrets of its own that need keeping.
So not only do you have to keep secrets on the way up, but you have to keep keeping them while up there, otherwise the other people who are up there will throw you down. Jami-Lee Ross threatened to tell the country the secrets of the National Party, and he was swiftly ushered into psychiatric care. A similar fate awaits any other high-ranking politician who comes down with a sudden bout of honesty.
Of course, Jami-Lee Ross had a much easier time of it than Socrates did. Socrates once said “I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live,” which relates to the second of these mechanisms. Just as there is a mechanism from within a politician’s own party to lie, so is there a mechanism from other parties to do so (i.e. from within the political system). This mechanism has accounted for not only Socrates but also Jesus, William McKinley, Abraham Lincoln, Adolf Hitler, John F Kennedy, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi.
The people who are permitted to rise up from the masses into the ruling class are heavily vetted before being allowed to progress. The main objective of this vetting process is to determine their inclination towards obedience. The ideal candidate will be perfectly obedient to all those above them, and will demand perfect obedience from all those below them. To the degree a candidate deviates from this pattern, their advancement through the mainstream political parties will be hindered.
If a candidate shows signs of creative ability, or signs of any original thinking, they will find their progress blocked. This is why the current ruling class is full of lawyers, and almost entirely absent of writers or artists. Lawyer is an inherently dishonest profession (in contrast to novelist or poet), and this is seen by the incumbents in the ruling class to be a qualification for office.
The less honest you are, the more able you are to keep secrets by twisting and distorting truths and shamelessly dodging questions. Related to this is the fact that, if you go into politics, many of your fellow politicians will be absolute scum, and you will have to accept and account for this otherwise they will destroy you. Some of them, like Peter Dunne, are happy to kill people to advance their careers.
In 2002, Dunne forced the Fifth Labour Government to accept a confidence and supply agreement that promised no movement on cannabis law reform. As a consequence, many people died from either being unable to access medicinal cannabis, or from taking the synthetic drugs that Dunne did allow in lieu of natural cannabis. If Dunne is willing to cause the deaths of hundreds of Kiwis for the sake of his political ambitions, he’s certainly willing to have you killed for them.
A third mechanism serving to keep honest people out of politics comes from the nature of the whims of democracy. Politicians have to follow fashions, or they will rapidly be turfed out of office by the voters. The populace cares not for right or wrong, nor for any issue of justice: they merely get angry when they’re told to get angry. If the television tells them to get angry about apartheid, or the prohibition of homosexuality, or cannabis prohibition, they will do so.
Observe what happened to the individuals who spoke out about the issue of widespread clerical sex abuse within the Catholic Church before it became fashionable. Sinead O’Connor did it in 1992, and it was a career-terminating move. If something is unfashionable, a democratic politician will not support it: it’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter if it’s morally right.
Male infant genital mutilation, for example, is an obscenity, one of the most evil practices that the human species has ever devised, but Western politicians remain too cowardly to oppose it on account of that doing so is yet to become fashionable. You could bet money, however, that when opposing this practice does become fashionable, the politicians will claim to have always opposed it.
The opposite can be observed with the case of cannabis law reform. Until recently, a desire for reform was an exceptionally libertarian position for a politician to take, and only the real mavericks were willing to do so. The Cannabis Activist’s Handbook was published by this company in 2012, and copies sent to all of the political parties then in Parliament, but politicians remained resolutely silent on the subject until very recently.
Even though many people knew decades before the Cannabis Activist’s Handbook was written that cannabis prohibition was a complete sham, these politicians all calculated that it was in their best interests to maintain the net of lies. This even though it was killing their own people. If politicians are willing to yield to pressures like this, what hope is there that they will tell the truth about anything but the least controversial of things?
In summary, the reason why there are no honest people in politics is because both our culture and the political system itself weeds them out before they get to the top, or it destroys anyone at the top who reveals themselves to be honest. There are at least three major mechanisms by which this takes place, and the combination of all three means that our democratically-elected political class are some of the most pitiful, wretched and corrupt individuals that anyone could be burdened with.
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