Saturday, June 22, 2024

Modern Politicians

Aurelien explains why most modern politicians are not up to the task.

They will know a great deal about how to make a good career, who to suck up to, and how to please important people. They will have effectively zero relevant experience as public servants...

This is important, because the skills needed to succeed in politics today have very little to do with the skills needed to be a good politician. That may sound odd, so let’s set out the differences. Traditionally, politicians seeking high office had to be fairly robust, managing on little sleep, largely foregoing real vacations, ready to give up evenings and weekends, able to absorb insults and invective without worrying about it. They had to be able to think on their feet, deal with an unscrupulous media, master detailed briefs quickly and sound at least half-way intelligent at seven in the morning or at midnight. As they advanced, they needed a sense of what their parliament and their public would accept, how to present themselves to the media, and how to retain the support of their colleagues. At a high level, they needed to be able to distinguish between causes that were hopeless, and causes worth fighting for.

Modern politicians are generally better educated (though not necessarily more intelligent) than those of previous generations, but they are not necessarily educated in the right things. It’s more important to have gone to the right University, and studied the right subject, than it is to know anything about anything. Their skills are those of survival and advancement inside an organisation... with the end of fundamental political differences between parties and the increasing homogenisation of the political class itself, it is the skills of advancement in an organisation that count. Belonging to the right faction, attaching yourself to rising stars, having the right opinions at a given moment: these are the skills to cultivate.

Almost by definition, such people are unprepared for the responsibility of running a Ministry, let alone a country. They have not done the kind of job, in politics, in business, in the media, even in academia, where they have to take responsibility for things. They do not know how to manage, and so they practice “management,” as ticking boxes and reciting slogans is now known. Unfamiliar with the need to engage with detail, they are obsessed with image and presentation...

The full article is here.

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