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GEORGE: Our political system rewards all the wrong things

November 27, 2018 - 12:00 PM

 


OPINION


Considering the complexity of our global economy and the great diversity of societies that call this planet home I find it interesting that we have chosen to govern ourselves using the political system that we have.

I think that we have designed a system that rewards politicians and political parties for doing all of the wrong things.

Do we really want the people we elect to base their decisions on what they believe? We certainly would if we could be assured that their beliefs were well supported. But we don't really support candidates for that reason, do we? No, we support them based on how well we feel they will represent our beliefs whether those beliefs are well supported or not.

We do not select our politicians for their ability to prudently shepherd our communities into the future. We select them based on which party they run for and how good those organizations are at raising money and mobilizing their voters. And those skills aren't the skills we need in our leadership class. Not even close.

So it is our own beliefs that need to go under the microscope.

What if those beliefs are wrong? What if on examination our dearly held shibboleths are found to be false? Is there any harm in holding false beliefs?

I would say there is. William Clifford states that unsupported beliefs can lead to "...fatally wrong actions..." and as such the formation and promulgation of false beliefs is ethically suspect. A social beings, holding false beliefs is morally wrong. Those beliefs can harm others and even kill people.

I normally don't mention Trump in any of my writings but he provided the perfect example this week to help me make my point. He doesn't believe that climate change is caused by human activity and believes that even if it does that the economic impacts will be negligible.

This is his belief even in the face of a report prepared using the best information available to the U.S. government by people who are qualified to examine and interpret a highly specialized dataset. His erroneous belief in this matter has enormous consequences for billions of people and this is the man who is purportedly the leader of the free world.

We have selected as a leader a person who has little traction in the real world. His focus on the human-built system of economics has allowed him to build and hold beliefs that are inimical to the rest of us.

What if we selected our leaders based on their solid understanding of complex systems, society, and the natural world? After all, we are surrounded by increasing complexity in the human world even as we are dismantling a much more complex natural world for profit while having little or no understanding of either.

It seems to me that in a world where we must choose between right and wrong actions letting what one person or group thinks is "right" is a path to a very dark future. I say let the real world be the arbiter of choice. And that means choosing leaders who can understand over those who can manipulate.

Decision-making skills are important but only if the decisions made are made using the best information available as a sound basis for action. Allowing what we believe to dictate our decisions, especially if those beliefs are wholly unsupported by reality, leads to bad decisions and bad decisions hurt people.

Participants in our political system game the entire process. Parties and politicians find beliefs to support with which to manipulate people into supporting them. The damage comes when the false beliefs of the politicians are allowed to manifest in policy and government action.

We are far past the time when we needed to change our political system to better prepare us for this century. The only solution I can see is to start selecting for something different in our leaders. And the surest path back to sanity lies in seriously examining the things we believe to make sure we aren't walking around acting based on false beliefs. Only then will we begin supporting leaders who are grounded in reality instead of ideologues and fools.

— Chris George believes one measure of a just society is found in how well it balances fiscally conservative economics with social responsibility and environmental soundness in all of its living arrangements.


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