Probably there is a rule somewhere that says you should never blog about serious topics on a Saturday night – and especially not from East Lansing, just before an MSU football game. But oh well, this is timely, so here goes. Last night @Slublog posted some thoughts on the coming election that found an echo in my mind, but were probably put better than I could have put them in under 140 characters, so I decided I would just collect them here with some interpolating comments. If you want to read everything he wrote – go find him on Twitter.
On where we are as a nation
I think we have the best system of government in the world, but it’s still imperfect. One of its flaws is that it is a perfectly viable short-term election strategy to take from a minority of the population, and give to a majority of the population. As long as people are voting in their financial self-interest, and I think they largely do, that will work. Money is a very powerful motivator, and the promise of more “free” stuff is very hard to say no to. And every year there are more people dependent on government.
“Democracies die when people realize they can vote themselves money from the treasury” – we’ve all heard the quote.
In the long run, this kind of strategy hurts everyone – because if you take from the wealthy and take from producers, what you end up doing is modifying their behavior. Maybe they don’t create that new business, or maybe they just move to a friendlier country. But another downside to our system of government is that our politicians don’t think long term – all they need to do is survive two years, or four years, until the next election. They aren’t going to be in power when the full fruit of their ideas comes to bloom in 30 or 40 years.
On the media today
Indeed it has. When I watched the reporting following the attacks on our embassies in Libya and elsewhere… I was just astounded. Even the pretense of objectivity had been dropped by the biggest media outlets in our country. The Middle East was on fire, there were a whole host of subsidiary facts that called into question the policies, promises, and simple competence of President Obama – and with all those big important stories to write, perhaps the dominant story that emerged… was about a Romney gaffe. Incredible. And the gaffe itself was only a gaffe because the media declared it to be so – as far as I know Romney never walked it back, and the White House itself later largely endorsed its content.
The most important job entrusted to the media is to be a watchdog, a questioner of government that keeps it honest and accountable. Plainly they had given up on that role entirely, and replaced it with, as I believe Ace said, “what can I do for Obama today?” The new media, though, is a ray of hope.
On the choice before us