My morning blog-reading threw up Well, no Mr. Chakrabortty, no wherein Timmy is characteristically blunt about the failings of politicians. You don’t have to agree, this is only the lead-in to my own view. The problem with Timmy’s analysis is that no, most politicians aren’t idiots, they are quite clever. Or at least some of them. But they do stuff up a lot of things very badly.
So I’ll put up my own view, which is more Darwinistic: you should do what you’re good at, and free competition will select those who get it right. In an idealised free market this happens for businesses: those that succeed, errm, succeed; and those that fail, fail. In a bad market, biznizmen can capture the regulation to their own advantage. But in a sense, that is the same Darwinism in action: if you’re astute, and wish to prosper, you have to recognise what in that environment will make you prosper. If the framework is wrong, the “right” behaviour won’t help. Setting the correct framework is the politicians job. If they get it wrong (e.g. by preferring cap-n-trade over a carbon tax) then the market will inevitably respond, “wrongly”.
And so to politicians. What pressures act to select on them? I argue that the ones you would want – competence, ability to manage their brief, making valid decisions – are there, but weak. Far stronger are ability to win elections, fighting up the party hierarchy, looking good, etc. Which is why I agree that the state should do as little as possible, and concentrate on what it should do: making the framework right. One large part of which (MPs expenses, the current phone hacking stuff) is preventing corruption.