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July 11, 2012


Bónapart Ó Cúnasa

You could argue that the Troubles in Northern Ireland were a pretty large social problem solved by politicians.

You could also argue that it was a problem caused by politicians...


From a Marxist stance your answer is that Politicos are the agents of capital. Failure to solve social problems is a feature of contemporary society so from the point of view of ordinary people politicians are useless. But profits are high so they are doing fine for their true paymasters. Solving real problems facing real people would cost the bosses so thats ruled out.

The only question as Keynes would ask is do the politicos really serve capital efficiently, is the economic failure of the euro a failure? You could argue that hard money is bad for growth so a failure as Keynes did in 1913 in his minority report on Indian currency and finance. But for wealth holders deflation may seem in their interests just as unemployment keeps Labour down. So hard money raises the purchasing power of nominal income. Railway Debentures purchased in 1870 buy more in the run up to 1913 as prices fall. For the very small number of rich Osbourne is doing fine, And the crowd of ECB Bankers and politicos. If deflation makes your wealth higher why worry about every one else?


Rather begs the question of the quality of politicians, especially when it comes to taking expert advice. Currently, you have opinionated twars like Gove doing what they think fit as a minister, idealogues like Lansley shamelessly pushing a party agenda - both of them ignoring the advice and opinions of professional experts - and right-wing shady characters like Liam Fox fairly obviously trying to introduce a US Republican influence into British public life. All of them oblivious to the notion of working for the common good, all of them seeming to think they're in office to do their own thing. And as for the Opposition, well, with one or two honourable exceptions, they're dim careerist dullards - again, in it for themselves and a pension. Ugh.

Account Deleted

The Marxist position, outlined by Keith, obviously provides part of the answer - the watering-down of the Vickers report being a recent example. However, politicians can on occasion be activist and revolutionary, where that suits Capital's needs, as was evinced by Thatcher in the 80s - e.g. City deregulation and council house sales.

Politicians also have a ceremonial function in formalising compromises by non-parliamentary forces. For example, they may not have "solved" the Troubles, as Boney suggests, but they did provide a face-saving exit once stalemate had been reached.

In respect of social care, I think the question should be: what purpose does delay serve? The answer could be that they want to sugar a bitter pill for an important electoral constituency. Or perhaps the market isn't ready/inclined to step in yet.

There's a strong suspicion that the dithering in Europe is less about politicians' ineptitude and more a deliberate strategy to prepare the ground prior to the destruction of over-valued assets. Together with wage repression, this tabula rasa will then trigger the next cycle of growth and above-trend profits (for a while).

I think we should be sceptical of claims that all politicians are useless (or "dullards"), not least because this plays to the idea that non-democratic forces should be given their head (these days in the shape of the "market", rather than blackshirts).

Politicians clearly don't represent we, the people, but they are agents of power rather than solely rent-seekers. Masterly inactivity is presumably in somebody's interest.

Richard Gadsden

If the problem is that politicians - as a class, not just particular individuals - aren't doing their jobs, then isn't a change to the method of recruiting politicians at least a reasonable attempt at an answer?

Not that changing the House of Lords is going to do that much good - but it seems to be attacking the right problem.


Interesting. I think Keith and Arse have it. To declare "we can't do much but keep the show on-the-road" would be bad for (politician's) business. Now the economic tide has gone out politicians looks a bit naked.

There seem too many of them but cutting numbers may endanger such democracy as we have.

They squabble and play silly games - at our expense.

They seem incompetent - passports, care quality etc etc etc.

One party seems as useless as the next.

So what would a 'good' government look like? Germany? France? Switzerland? or do they look better because I do not

live there?

james higham

Those that governments, in principle, can address by being able to marshall collective action and informed opinion, but are not addressing: these include reform of social care and the tax system, for example.

Especially the tax system.

Churm Rincewind

Whoa. The objection seems to be that the Government has not unhesitatingly implemented the recommendations of the Dilnot Report and the Mirrlees Review. Well, yes, we live in a society which mainly prioritises democracy (the views of the people) over technocracy (the views of an expert managerial elite). And that's just fine by me.


I've never quite understood your cynicism towards politicians, Chris. Or whether you're exaggerating your beliefs slightly to make a point.

If the main role of government is to (a) take money off the rich and redistribute it to the poor, and (b) influence public opinion/values, then they do have an effect.

I am sure if Labour had won the election the rich would be slightly worse off, and the poor slightly better. Maybe not by much. But if you're someone who is, for example, disabled and relies on treatment or welfare or other social care then it could be the difference between a good life and a bad life.

The Tories are more likely to move public opinion towards "immigrants are stealing all your jobs" and "the unemployed are too lazy to find work", than Labour.

Labour may be as useless as the Tories in reforming public services, or solving problems, but they are likely to make those services slightly better by chucking money at the them.

Throwing money at a problem and hoping it solves itself isn't a very good approach. But it's a marginally better than the current government's approach of just withholding money and hoping it solves itself.

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