Wednesday, 9 January 2008

The Politics of Change

As linked to in the last post, I think Scott Feschuk has got the synopsis of the current US primaries down pat. seems the 2008 presidential race basically consists of a dozen people standing in front of microphones shrieking, “Change! CHANGE! Look at me, America – I’m changier than all the other candidates!”

It happens here in Canada too. We all say we want change. But we're not completely honest. We want change as long as it doesn't affect ourselves. Go change my neighbour, but leave me alone.
A big example is the Climate Change debate. The supporters/believers (and I include myself in this) all want government action now! to mediate the impending apocalypse we believe is coming. But we treat the issue like an impending enema. We agree its necessary, but we really don't want it, so we delay if for as long as possible. We know that the change required to make things happen will require undesired changes in our own lives.

Even the most ardent greenie, who has made sacrifices to "go green" has this viewpoint. "I've already done what I can, its up to everyone else to do it too." Its not just climate change, its anything. Tax policy, health care, welfare reform, public auto insurance, take your pick.

This is where politicians are screwed when they campaign on change. Massive change affects the majority of the voters, and the majority don't want the change to happen to them. Stalemate. You can't win support on that. How does a politician promise to effect change that impacts everyone but you?

So this is my prediction for the US Presidential election. A candidate will be elected on their promises to effect sweeping change, and the system will look the same when the their term is done as when it all began. Each candidate might as well write their three letters now.


M@ said...

I only sort of agree with you on this, and climate change is a good issue to show you the nature of my disagreement.

It may be coloured by my bleeding libtard heart, but government is the easiest agent of positive social change, because it can create the change (relatively) evenly.

If I choose to pay more for a hybrid car, travel less, and make whatever other changes are required of a socially conscious citizen to reduce carbon emissions, it puts me back socially in many ways -- less freedom to choose a job, less money, that kind of thing. Plus, my reduced emissions are a drop in the bucket -- we need to get everyone on board to effect any real change.

But if all cars' emissions are reduced, even if they cost more my comparative loss compared to other citizens is nil; plus the action has a chance of making a real impact on the climate.

Anyhow, I do agree with you, but I don't think the message of change I'm talking about is the kind of message that will motivate voters (or, for that matter, politicians). Ah well.

Catelli said...

M@ I agree with you that government is sometimes (often?) best positioned to implement change, especially on the climate front. I just doubt how much the voter really wants that change.

And for the sake of argument, its the degree of change. Making a car cost another grand or two ain't necessarily a big thing. Making a car cost 5 grand more and tax gasoline to $2 a litre will make people squeal.