I took this postings’ title from lyrics in the David Allen Coe song, ‘Jimmy Buffett’. It’s a very well done song with a catchy rhythm (and I’m not a big country music fan). There’s a decent wiki article on the history of the term.
So, when I see the cyclical (yearly) news article pointing out politicians net worth, I naturally start singing that song.
This gets about three minutes of attention every year, based on public reporting requirements for American politicians. This blog post approximately covers 0.0000487 seconds worth of that attention. The true value of this post is definitely a lot less, based on current and future exchange rates. Generally, I don’t have an issue with rich folk, when I know they made their wealth (more or less) honestly. Some of the listees fall into that group. The rest of them are usually from ‘old money families’. Connected.
So, seeing the latest non-efforts of our leaders (UI talks stall after Reid locks out Republican changes « Hot Air), I questioned ‘What’s in it for them?’ This question being based on the theory of enlightened self interest.
Let me put myself in their place (harder than it sounds, as I can’t stand the idea of being a politician). Okay. I’m rich. I’m an elected official. I have investments to oversee/run. I have special interests/constituents to placate. I have a natural instinct to provide for me and mine, first. I draft/support/enact laws that affect millions of people. I have opposing interests that seek laws in their favor.
The goals on my short list are: Stay in office? Amass political clout/power? Make money ‘on the side’ (through investments or business opportunities my family and friends control)? Serve the common good?
The first three are easily answerable and definable goals. The last, not so much. Can any of us define what constitutes the common good? The framers of the constitution did a pretty fair job in pointing out the basics. They had a talent that most of us in the twenty-first century have lost: the ability to think deeply about a subject, to ruminate on a problem to the nth level as you would play a game of chess.
Some of you may disagree with me on that point. You can point out the intricate machinations and complex deals that comprise American politics today. No argument from me there. What is different, is the length of the game. In the 1700s, business goals were simple, allowing politicians to think through deeper problems. From the beginning of the 19th century, business goals have become inordinately complex, requiring much more effort to control and succeed. Not much time left for concerns about human necessities. Aside from academia, that is. And since money buys politicians (not in the crass way, just that campaign war chests succeed in getting the richest pol elected), there aren’t many pure academics in politics.
Because we do not have the time to dissect the common good problem while ‘serving’ the public, we default to the situations we can control and show success and closure on; supporting the special interests, and possibly by association, our own bottom line.
There are all manner of remedies put forth to rectify this situation. I won’t list them here, only because it would take me down a rabbit hole with way too many factors. Suffice to say, the present structure of American government, designed for a world and country that no longer exists, demands reform, if it really desires to serve the ‘common’ good. The present political/monied class has no reason to change the status quo.