Why doesn’t the government make progress on important policy issues?

NOTE: pick the correct link

Usually because we don’t really want to.

Factions (special interests and party politics) threaten our system, just as the framers of the Constitution warned.

And note Romans 16:17. While there are many dedicated public servants, there are occasional phonies with power who specialize in mucking up our system.

Let me introduce you to some of the denizens of the political zoo:

The Indispensable Idiot. This fellow protects his money, power and ego by pretending that keeping his job is in the public interest because he is indispensable to the government. He spends most of his time protecting his turf by neutralizing anyone with talent or ideas and rewarding anyone who will kiss his rear end. It’s amazing the amount of evil the indispensable idiot can dish out to promote the common good.

(Note: “he” could be “she,” now and hereinafter).

Mr. Smart-Guy; the know it all know nothing. This fellow thinks he knows everything that matters, usually because he has an officious title, a degree from a pretentious university, or is overpaid. But as smart folks realize, the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know.

Mr. Smart-Guy gets in the way precisely because he doesn’t understand, but he thinks he does. He damages policy by refusing to bring in a team of people who actually have the right expertise to handle the issues. He makes dumb policy by presuming to understand other people who he doesn’t know and can’t begin to relate to.

A legislative committee hearing in January.

Suevon Lee/Civil Beat

The guy who built the railroad all by himself. This fellow won’t green-light any project unless it has his name emblazoned upon it like a Broadway marquee. He would claim to have written “The Great Gatsby” if he could get away with it.

Improvement is his enemy unless it makes him look good. And he demoralizes everyone around him by failing to acknowledge their contribution and by stripping away their main motivation to serve a purpose larger than themselves.

The sweet talker. This fellow won’t tell you the situation you are in either because he doesn’t have a solution or because he thinks you can’t handle the truth. He would sugar coat the fact that you are in the ocean with a laceration on your ankle with six tiger sharks cruising nearby by saying, “They look as if they ate earlier!”

While denial can create hope and courage, if it is used to lull you into inaction, then it can be as lethal as a slow acting cyanide. And while the fellow is playing divide and conquer and getting you to argue amongst yourselves, please notice: He’s in the boat, and you’re not.

The elitist. This fellow likes to hurt people, but makes believe that he is just a tough guy making hard decisions. In truth, he finds power thrilling, and every time some people get hurt by a policy that he has had a hand in, he feels a certain tingle because it reminds him that he’s part of the class of persons who make decisions that affect other people’s lives.

Add a penchant for judging others and you have an airtight rationalization for evil. At bottom, this guy is a coward; take him out of his role and he shrivels into nothing. He might even cry out: “I’m melting!”

The moral weakling. The fellow likes to make excuses for substandard conduct. He’ll say that the problem with a politician is that he is tone-deaf and not listening when in fact the problem is that the politico is ruthless.

He’ll say that bad legislation should be passed because we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, without explaining why we should let a minimum standard of care be the enemy of cat poop. He’ll say that everything is subjective, relative, a matter of point of view.

But he can’t explain what that means if you end up with a bullet in the back of the head with someone else holding the smoking gun. He thinks of himself as a nice guy and a diplomat, someone who knows the game, but in fact, he is an enabler of evil.

What we do about this cast of characters?

First, recognize them for the phonies they are. We need not judge them, it is a big step just to see through them.

Second, keep your eye on the ball. Support freedom, the rule of law, security and government solvency. Oppose theocracy and secular religions like communism, both of which tend towards totalitarianism and bad economics.

Maintain focus!

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.

About the Author