Politics Follows – But What?

There has been quite a lot of talk these days about the fact that politics is not delivering leadership.In the US, Washington is mired in gridlock. Worse still, it seems impossible to generate meaningful dialogue about serious issues. In Europe, core issues of the sustainability of the Euro find no political forum at all. And of course, these are perhaps the two most sophisticated political systems in the world.

Should we despair? give up on politics? Some might be tempted. They yearn for simpler ways to get decisions made. But this yearning ignores a problem — making decisions is just one part of the process in producing great societies. A more important part is assessing what decisions need to be made. And here, individuals tend to get lost in their own agendas. They flounder when they need to pivot. So we are stuck with a group process, like it or not.

The question then is how to make politics better? And here I think we need to do a re-think. For too long we have nurtured the fantasy that politicians lead. In fact, they do not. What they do is watch closely to uncover how to get elected to office and stay in office. And they do that stuff — no matter how silly it might seem. This is not leadership.

So if we want more dynamic leadership in society, we need to look to channels that compel politicians to follow — not plead with them to lead. What channels? That is an interesting question — and one that needs urgent attention.

the traditional answer is that we look to media. A free press can save us! Free exchange of ideas is the future! And I think few would debate whether media is essential. But is freedom enough? I think not. The missing sauce here is accountability. When the press is not accountable for the reporting that it does, it can broadcast whatever it wants.

I will be thinking a bit more about how to generate more accountability. Stay tuned!

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