Getting the government you deserve

I think Aerosmith said it best; “There’s something wrong with the world today.” In fact, I think more people than Aerosmith have said it, but they set it to music and Livin’ On The Edge is an awesome song. And they’re right; there is something wrong and we are living on the edge.

The problem is not the pandemic. The problem is what the pandemic has exposed; poor governance. Governments are large weighty institutions, sheer momentum allows them to carry on regardless of who’s in charge. But when a real crisis comes along, you need actual leadership, and that’s been in short supply.

I think a large part of the problem comes from the way politics has become a popularity contest. People are voting for entertaining personalities with exciting rhetoric. Competence is not considered, and a stirring slogan is better clickbait than a well thought out plan. So the UK has Boris Johnson, who waffles in Latin and whose hair defies the the tyranny of the comb. In Ontario, they are saddled with Doug Ford, whose Covid policy is ‘Do whatever the last person in the room suggests and try not to upset anyone. At least, not anyone with money.’

The worst part is we have no one to blame but ourselves. People have become less and less politically engaged. We stay in our social media bubbles and, to be fair, tv has gotten a lot better in recent years. It’s easier to not pay attention, because once you acknowledge a problem exists there’s an annoying niggle of conscience prodding you to fix it. It’s easier to assume there’s nothing we can do. That there’s no point in holding these leaders to account.

Sadly, as bad as these leaders are, it looks like we’re stuck with them for a while. Not because of their charm and charisma, but because they’ve made such mess that no one wants to clean it up. As bad as the last year has been, the next few years are going to be worse in many ways. All the emergency measures implemented to control Covid will need to be paid for; the furlough scheme, the support for businesses, the extra money for the NHS; it all has to come from somewhere. Anyone in charge over the next few years will, by necessity, need to do some deeply unpopular things.

What we need are teams of people with no long term political ambitions. People who are willing to piss everyone off, with higher taxes for the rich and mask mandates and eco-friendly initiatives that inconvenience everyone. People who will come in, force us to eat our vegetables and take our medicine without the comforting spoonful of sugar.

Then, once their work is done, they leave, voluntarily fading into obscurity, leaving the world a slighter better place, or at least on a slightly better track. And, maybe, with the electorate having learned a few lessons about substance over style.

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