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Should the ideal of democracy be about holding politicians accountable?

ChristianKl          21 February 2016 05:33 AM

Lately there's a specter going around. It's the idea that voters have certain wishes for future policy. Electing politicians is then supposed to be about electing exactly those politicians that promise to do what voters want. I think we should rather think of democracy as being a system for holding politicians accountable. Parties that engage in actions that are bad for the country are supposed to get less power. Bad congressmans shouldn't be reelected but replaced with new congressman. Our prime focus in an election shouldn't be the question: "Does the politician promise to do what I want?" but "Did the politician do good policy in the past? Do I like the record of the politicians" Election promises are easy to fake. Politicins frequently make promises the won't hold. Having a good policy record on the other hand isn't easy to fake.

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melian 22 February 2016 11:39 AM

good policy record on the other hand isn't easy to fake

Is there an objective way to decide whether a politicianís record is good or not? For example, how could you objectively judge the outcome of Ronald Reaganís or Bill Clintonís policies?


ChristianKl 22 February 2016 12:13 PM

I don't think the goal has to be an objective judgement. It's alright if the politician made policy choices that you think were good given your own values.

I claim I'm making is that judging a politician by what he's actually done is better than judging him based on what he promises to do in the future. Judging him by his record is better than watching him debate with other politicians on stage.


aliad 21 February 2016 10:19 PM

In theory I'm for this idea. But the sort of "results" that most spring to mind are the day to day conditions of community life. And there are many things that affect those, coming from both many different politicians and forces over which politicians have no control. You can't really detangle the influences enough to judge an individual politicians on end results. So your back to judging the policy decisions of the politician. But the criteria by which you judge a PST policy decision "good" or "bad" are going to be closely tied how you judge possibly future policies, and the record of past decisions is one of the major ways to predict future decisions. So in the end I don't see this question as providing much of a change from what voter are trying to do now.


ChristianKl 22 February 2016 10:58 AM

If you judge possibly future policies of a politican by looking at their campaign promises you incentivise the politician to lie.
By the next election the voters have forgotten the old promises and judge the politcians based on the new promises.

There are project like Wahl-O-Mat that try to guide voters to vote based on which parties promise to do what the voter wants. Even among aspiring rationalists tools like the Wahl-O-Mat are popular.

We can't always judge politicians by their outcomes, but we can judge them by their actions.
Does a president give his Department of Justice to a prosecutor who has a record of being tough on white-collar crime or does he give it to a lawyer who's stake is in defending white-dollar crime?

Politics is very much about people so personal decisions are one of the best ways to look at priorities.

Does a Secretary of State push to wage a war without congressional approval or does she go out and say that her government shouldn't wage war without congressional approval? Or does it matter more that the person promises not to wage unnecessary war in the future?

If one of the chief architects of the TPP opposes it right before an election, do we treat her as opposing it?