Evaluating Political Propositions

In the next 18 months, politicians will be proposing or promising all manner of stuff. Some of it will be sensible-sounding, some of it may sound utterly incomprehensible. In any political process, it helps a lot to adhere to two simple rules when trying to evaluate the logic and reasoning behind a proposed course of action.
1. Follow The Money
Many political proposals are not being floated to advance society. More correctly, they are usually being proposed because some person or group somewhere is going to make money from them, and that person or group has been lobbying to have the proposal appear in the political process. That lobbying process usually runs on cash. Lobbyists don’t do the job for all the fine wine they can drink…
Politicians who are at all interested in power (and most are) usually operate on the WIIFM principle when advancing ideas or legislation (What’s In It For Me?). That often involves the acquisition of cash as a quid pro quo for the advancement of proposals or legislation, because the US political process is expensive. There is always the next election to fund, especially if you are a member of the House of Representatives and always running for re-election.

2. Look Where The Votes Are
In peacetime, politicians usually try to appeal to groups who they think will deliver the maximum number of votes for their party. They may dress those appeals up in all forms of fine-sounding language, but ultimately, you cannot have any power unless you get elected and gain some form of majority. Politicians usually appeal to voting blocs by some form of pandering.
Sometimes the pandering takes the form of empathetic noises about the values of that voting bloc, accompanied by symbolic actions to show that empathy. Sometimes the actions become more substantive and blatant, even ensuring in some cases that the bloc will gain financially from the proposed actions. (In less polite company, we might call that bribery). By the way, don’t feel too virtuous while reading this – if you benefitted from any recent tax cuts, that was because somebody who was elected to political office was trying to bribe you.
While it would be nice to logically evaluate all political proposals without considering the motive, that is not possible most of the time. Most proposals will fall into one or both of the above primary categories, and therefore need to be reviewed via those two lenses. That will continue until We The People stop allowing ourselves to be pandered to, and start demanding logical, sustainable actions from politicians. I’m not holding my breath.


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