Author Topic: career politicians  (Read 1504 times)

TheDrake

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career politicians
« on: August 06, 2018, 10:44:48 AM »
The idea of being a career politician is losing whatever respect it ever managed to gain, it seems. It feels strange to me to want to get rid of people who have built a career in politics, from education through interning, then holding local or state office, and then the national stage.

It seems a bit like saying you don't trust "career doctors" or "career engineers". Why would we think that people who had only studied the law, lawmaking, and ethics for a couple of years would be better at it than people who have been immersed in it for decades? People who have gained the experience that only comes from repetition and learning from mistakes?

Increasingly, I've been shifting away from term limits - partly for this reason. I also really don't see anything superior about the politicians who come raw from other pursuits. I mean, Reagan wasn't quite a career politician, but he was President of SAG for several terms, campaigned for various politicians, and then became governor of California for eight years before going for president.

Seriati

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #1 on: August 06, 2018, 12:26:01 PM »
The idea of being a career politician is losing whatever respect it ever managed to gain, it seems. It feels strange to me to want to get rid of people who have built a career in politics, from education through interning, then holding local or state office, and then the national stage.

It seems a bit like saying you don't trust "career doctors" or "career engineers".

A career in medicine improves your medical knowledge (though my wife won't use very old doctors as she finds at a point they start rejecting new knowledge in favor of how its always been done).  Engineering very similar, experience on multiple projects that leads to new insights on future ones.

What does a career in politics teach someone?  They spend a huge amount of time on fund raising and making connections to "important" people.  In fact, that seems to be all some of them do.  They learn how to repay favors and amass a book of favors owed and owed to.  They spending a great deal of time on minutia. 

Is that really all things that getting better at makes them better at being responsible to their voters?  Is your Senator really more suited to why you elected her because she can raise $50m in six months instead of $4m?  Pretty much everything about them is about power accrual, which you have to "hope" will be used as your proxy and not just for their own ends.

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Why would we think that people who had only studied the law, lawmaking, and ethics for a couple of years would be better at it than people who have been immersed in it for decades? People who have gained the experience that only comes from repetition and learning from mistakes?

Feel that way about computer programmers too?  Should we look for the next google to be founded by a group from a nursing home?

Even on wisdom, I've met plenty of old racists, and not so many young ones.  Sometimes people carry ideas inside that were okay when they grew up and not any more.

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Increasingly, I've been shifting away from term limits - partly for this reason. I also really don't see anything superior about the politicians who come raw from other pursuits. I mean, Reagan wasn't quite a career politician, but he was President of SAG for several terms, campaigned for various politicians, and then became governor of California for eight years before going for president.

The problem with term limits is uneven application.  Having your own state cap a Senator at 12 years when they have to compete with 40 year vets is just a big loss.  Donors won't give them as much money (less return) and their favors have less value (or rather being owed a favor from them).

I'd love to see universal term limits.

Fenring

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2018, 12:40:36 PM »
Just a wacky idea, how about making fundraising illegal and have all campaigns occur within an official state program? The usual objection would be how to prevent unelectable people bogging down the process, since money is usually what prevents them. But if that's the real problem I don't think that's altogether a difficult issue to engineer correctly. If campaign financing was removed as a problem, the time of Congresspeople could actually be used to...you know...do their jobs. But perhaps more importantly, no illicit compacts would need to be made. There would still be wiggle room for corruption, of course, in some of the usual manners (backroom deals, favors for favors, future participating in powerful groups, etc) but the purely monetary incentive would be gone. Although people hoping to be corrupted will still have plenty of room to do so, those who actually want to do good would be in a better position to not have to be corrupted in order to get into power.

TheDrake

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2018, 12:46:03 PM »
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Feel that way about computer programmers too?  Should we look for the next google to be founded by a group from a nursing home?

Even on wisdom, I've met plenty of old racists, and not so many young ones.  Sometimes people carry ideas inside that were okay when they grew up and not any more.

Generally speaking, I do value engineers with more experience. Of course, I am one, so there you have it. Ageism aside, a lot of the admired people without political experience are just as tied to old ideas, and in fact ARE old. Some of the 30-35 year olds running for Congress have a decade of political experience.

I see several skills for career politician that are valuable.

1. Being diplomatic.
2. Being careful in communications.
3. Knowing policy.
4. Knowing how to defend against tricks and traps.
5. Having an experienced staff (this isn't 100% locked, but many non-career polticians tend to also assemble there staff from inexperienced people.
6. And yes, having a lot of favors to call in helps get things accomplished.

As far as fundraising - yeah, that's a big part of it. But I think inexperienced people also have to pull this off.

Seriati

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2018, 02:09:02 PM »
Just a wacky idea, how about making fundraising illegal and have all campaigns occur within an official state program? The usual objection would be how to prevent unelectable people bogging down the process, since money is usually what prevents them. But if that's the real problem I don't think that's altogether a difficult issue to engineer correctly. If campaign financing was removed as a problem, the time of Congresspeople could actually be used to...you know...do their jobs.

If you believe that the Clintons were broke when they left office and had over a hundred million dollars by the time of Hillary's campaign, it should give an idea that it's not just campaign funds.  Being a politician should not be a profitable job.  Not while in office and not after.

TheDrake, I'm not trying to imply there are no useful skills, but most of what you describe is a skill set that's replicated in a host of other areas in the private sphere.  What makes politicians unique is really the least reputable part of all that, oh yeah, and a craving for power.

Fenring

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2018, 02:39:10 PM »
If you believe that the Clintons were broke when they left office and had over a hundred million dollars by the time of Hillary's campaign, it should give an idea that it's not just campaign funds.  Being a politician should not be a profitable job.  Not while in office and not after.

I agree with you that it shouldn't be a profitable job, so separating money from politics is only one step. But a very necessary step, mind you, since money is the simplest and most direct way to calculate power and...options, shall we say. I think separating money from campaigning is the first of many steps needed in order to remove corruption from leadership.

I already said that for those looking to cash in on being powerful simple campaign finance laws won't change that. You would need a far more draconian system in place to actually prevent that. For instance, if any person accepting a high public office had to legally sign a vow of poverty that would prevent them ever owning property or financial goods again, and that they would have to life a simple life in a state-run monastery, that would be one way to approach *that* issue. Not that this is the only way, but I'm giving it as an example of how serious a measure it would take to prevent what you just brought up. You would have to be so far removed from wealth and material influence, mandated by law, that it would take on an almost religious flavor. Nothing short of that, in any form, will stop people who so desire from convening with power mongers and trading power and influence. In fact, even power and influence could still be traded in the monastery scenario, but at least the vast majority of power-hungry people would shy away from that. You'd still be left with High Sparrow type people as seen in Game of Thrones, who are willing to live ascetic lives knowing that they still control the fates of other men.

In general, I see the best ways to prevent this sort of position being attractive to the wrong people (at present the incentives are exactly backward and the wrong people are attracted for those, rather than for the job) is to create positive incentives for doing the job correctly, and negative incentives for doing it in a corrupt fashion. It's just like any other game design; people will try to maximize their gains and so the rules must be balanced and functional or else the players will break the game. Trying to do the best for yourself should likewise create the best outcome for the system. In a good game the design is good when (a) each player has an equal chance to win at the onset, and (b) when they try their best to win they are also playing the game as intended. In a badly designed game you'll end up having a play style contrary to the design intent because it happens to be more effective. In a good game effectiveness should always result in the 'feel' of the game being as intended, which usually makes it fun and interesting for all involved. When a game feels bad it doesn't matter how good at it you are; it's a badly designed game when it's no fun. Now imagine that people are obliged to play, for life, and that the rule set is broken.


TheDrake

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2018, 02:58:01 PM »
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TheDrake, I'm not trying to imply there are no useful skills, but most of what you describe is a skill set that's replicated in a host of other areas in the private sphere.

I'd say that's an overestimate. Not that there aren't people like that coming from the military, c-staff, etc.

Someone outside the system could be potentially less corrupt, or more. Bloomberg, I'm pretty sure, wasn't a guy you had to worry about. He had kind of a tough go of it, especially early on. He was also one of the politicians to test term limits that kept him from going past 8 years in office - he blew past that by changing the term limit law and then winning the election.

Seriati

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #7 on: August 06, 2018, 03:06:34 PM »
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TheDrake, I'm not trying to imply there are no useful skills, but most of what you describe is a skill set that's replicated in a host of other areas in the private sphere.

I'd say that's an overestimate.

Then I'd say you've never been involved at a high level in a major corporation.  It's very difficult to distinguish the political skills of some business leaders from some politicians (and if you've ever seen a business leader create a charity, you can see a literal parallel).

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Not that there aren't people like that coming from the military, c-staff, etc.

No way.  Our military staff have a completely different (and in my view better) skill set.  Even though the general staff is heavily political.

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Someone outside the system could be potentially less corrupt, or more. Bloomberg, I'm pretty sure, wasn't a guy you had to worry about. He had kind of a tough go of it, especially early on. He was also one of the politicians to test term limits that kept him from going past 8 years in office - he blew past that by changing the term limit law and then winning the election.

Bloomberg was good.  Which makes it interesting that people decided to hate Trump before he even took the oath.  Trump was absolutely a guy that would have been able to govern from the middle, if he had anything to work with.

Fact is though, we crucify outsiders.  The media and the politicians are engaged in a cosy little back scratch that doesn't serve any our interests.

D.W.

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #8 on: August 06, 2018, 03:43:37 PM »
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Which makes it interesting that people decided to hate Trump before he even took the oath.
The guy was a reality TV star who (hopefully) plays a caricature of himself to gain attention and revels in being an ostentatious, fickle, know-it-all.  He WANTS people to hate him.  Or maybe be jealous of him as he treats others beneath him.  That "character" however, has persisted into office.

You are acting as if that decision is an irrational one.  IDK, maybe his ability to provoke a visceral reaction of hate has served him well over the years and he's mastered the talent.  If I didn't think he was a threat to our country maybe I would find that talent "interesting".

TheDrake

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #9 on: August 06, 2018, 05:41:24 PM »
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TheDrake, I'm not trying to imply there are no useful skills, but most of what you describe is a skill set that's replicated in a host of other areas in the private sphere.

I'd say that's an overestimate.

Then I'd say you've never been involved at a high level in a major corporation.  It's very difficult to distinguish the political skills of some business leaders from some politicians (and if you've ever seen a business leader create a charity, you can see a literal parallel).

I've been involved with some execs, both C-level and VP in companies with over $1B in revenue.

I'd say I meet more of them who are bad at politics, but that's partly my opinion of what being political means, and about the number of such people who are out there that are good at it. Steve Jobs was very, very bad at politics. That's why he lost control of his company. Everything is a mixed bag. I'd be willing to say that my personal experience is small enough it could be off. I don't know how one would be objective about it, so it is just my opinion.

Greg Davidson

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2018, 12:14:20 AM »
I am skeptical of these broad generalizations (all politicians are bad, all military officers are good, etc.). There are good and bad human beings in almost all roles. 

As with virtually everything in this world, I would like to see consistent standards applied to making value judgments. Because I see the judgment comes first ("I have bad feelings about X, so X must be bad")

What if a retired politician performed a task in retirement that saved the lives of 10 million human beings? Not hypothetically, not in an "Al Gore promotes concern about global warning that eventually will shift policy to change lives", but rather in direct and concrete way: if this former politician had not taken action after he was in office, there would be ten million more corpses from men, women, and children dying an early death. Even if the retired politician had lived an imperfect life, saving ten lives let alone 10 million is a moral good that exceeds any of the accomplishments of my life or any of yours.

And of course there is such a politician, and of course, the beneficial effect is well documented. And of course, if I were to state the case, it would be immediately discarded because this is one such case where feelings out trump values



     

 

rightleft22

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2018, 12:27:50 PM »
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As with virtually everything in this world, I would like to see consistent standards applied to making value judgments
That is something a elitist would say  ???
I wonder if the age of reason is coming to a close as I'm not sure if facts, truth or standards matter anymore. Maybe they never did, only now were not even pretending anymore?

I don't think the problem is idea of a professional politician, but a politician that forgets he/she/it is a servant of the people, not the master

LetterRip

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #12 on: August 07, 2018, 01:00:26 PM »
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teve Jobs was very, very bad at politics. That's why he lost control of his company.

Steve Jobs was a bad CEO, which is why he lost his position at Apple.  The skills that people attribute to Jobs are not the skills he had.  He was a brilliant negotiator; superb at hiring talent; and tremendous at acquiring promising technology developed by others.  During his first stint as Apple CEO - Apple was succeeding in spite of Jobs, not because of him.

During his second stint - negotiation with Bill Gates (for the investment to keep them solvent and the promise for MS office to be ported to future versions of the Mac); acquiring the OS and MP3 hardware design companies that became the iPod; and then negotiating with the content industries were his important contributions.

Seriati

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #13 on: August 07, 2018, 04:36:15 PM »
I am skeptical of these broad generalizations (all politicians are bad, all military officers are good, etc.). There are good and bad human beings in almost all roles.

I didn't value judge whether they are good or bad people, however, I can draw conclusions (granted they may not be true in all cases) about them based on whether they are successful. National politicians almost never get there without being excellent at fundraising, networking and flexible on favor trading.  Much like a professional football player that "stinks" is still someone who was a star in college and a once in generation talent at the high school level.  There's a process that weeds out people with poor skill sets, and you really don't get to the national political level and stay there without being a "star."

I like the skill set a general has better, though you'll personally like the ex-politician more if you meet them.  If you've ever worked with any ex-military officers you probably have some sense of the skills it requires to advance.

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What if a retired politician performed a task in retirement that saved the lives of 10 million human beings?

That would be great.

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Even if the retired politician had lived an imperfect life, saving ten lives let alone 10 million is a moral good that exceeds any of the accomplishments of my life or any of yours.

I really don't buy into the utilitarian idea that one can make up for evil by doing good acts after.  And certainly, I wouldn't give moral credit to someone who saved millions for selfish reasons (though they could legitimately be a hero and even praiseworthy).  I mean for instance, what moral weight is someone who says, pay me $100 and I'll kill 8 million people, who has the power to do so, and because you won't give them $100 they let them live.  That's not a moral decision.

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And of course there is such a politician, and of course, the beneficial effect is well documented. And of course, if I were to state the case, it would be immediately discarded because this is one such case where feelings out trump values

I have no idea if you are making a legitimate case with that vague statement.  But it's interesting that you would cite Trump, as based on that philosophy, you should be more than happy to ignore Trump's prior acts and focus on the good he's doing now.

Greg Davidson

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Re: career politicians
« Reply #14 on: August 09, 2018, 09:17:18 PM »
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I like the skill set a general has better, though you'll personally like the ex-politician more if you meet them.  If you've ever worked with any ex-military officers you probably have some sense of the skills it requires to advance.

I work all the time with ex-military (general officers, mostly air force, navy and marines). As you said, people at a senior level generally have some strong skills, but in my experience they also have the normal range of human flaws.   

The saving 10 million lives is what the Clinton Foundation actually does - the focus was to come up with ways to make HIV medication affordable for people in third world countries primarily in Africa, and it has worked in providing access for roughly 10 million people.  So, Seriati, would you see this action of Bill Clinton as being "great", or does the Clinton involvement tarnish for you the moral importance of what was accomplished?