as published in the Blytheville Courier News on Thursday, October 8, 2015
By TOM HENRY
Politics change like the wind, but sound principles never do. Are we in Blytheville “tax and spend” creatures or are we hard working, thrifty people that want our government to only do what we can’t do for ourselves?
Famed British statesman Edmund Burke said, “Government is a contrivance of human wisdom to provide for human wants”. We know that everything we do in public policy keeps us from being able to do something else we might want to do, therefore governing is all about making choices. So those we elect make decisions for us, and sometimes they are controversial. The enforcement of those decisions is policy and I agree with Bjorn Lomborg, that “wishful thinking is not sound public policy”.
Politics is always people or personality driven and includes all the activities performed to get or keep power. Power allows those elected to influence policy, but not necessarily to set it unchecked. Pure politics is always an “us against them” mentality and always involves a pay off (quid pro quo) for those that politic in support of those in power and a punishment to those that don’t. Politicians promise everything, but always find a way to explain why they can’t deliver. Politicians are master “magicians” that tell you to look over there (at them), while they secretly make their moves with their other hand. Politics is about discipline. Politics is about building an efficient machine to deliver votes by any means necessary, but are very vague about or unconcerned with specific policy. Politics is also about dividing people, instilling fear and building a bigger team. It is wrapped around slogans, but honestly cares very little about real solution solving ideas or policy.
Good policy is always idea driven and is the actual management of government to accomplish a specific strategy for a government body. This is not about grand speeches or glamorous showboating, this is actually about getting our sewers flushing, our trash picked up, our water cleaned properly, our streets safe and our students learning. It has absolutely nothing to do with whether the policy maker is a man, a woman, African-American, Caucasian, Baptist, Catholic, Democrat or Republican. It has nothing to do with the policymakers; it has everything to do with solutions to problems facing every day people.
When policy is good and the strategy is good, wisdom is apparent. When wisdom is lacking or the strategy is bad, policy stinks, and the people suffer. Good government can exist with weak politics, but good government can never exist with weak policy. Embarrassingly, elections have become almost entirely about the better practitioner of politics. That is because ignorant, uninformed voters cast their votes based upon friendships, sound bites, slogans and empty promises. Good government occurs when people inform themselves about the issues, evaluate policy difference and the credibility/past performance of those advocating the policies, and then use wisdom to vote accordingly.
Politicians don’t like to talk about specifics in public discussions. Why? Because as José Mart’ said, “the first duty of a man is to think for himself.” When people think for themselves, and ideas begin to rule in the public forum, power politics tumble into a trash heap.
We have a special election coming up regarding whether to accept a permanent, non-earmarked, one percent city sales and usage tax. If you vote for, or against, the tax based solely upon any person, you are dead wrong and a puppet. If you vote for, or against, the tax based upon the demographic of any person attached to the issue, you are wrong and shallow. If you vote for, or against, the tax because after doing the homework, you believe it is the right policy and you used wisdom in your choice, then it matters not if I agree with you — you are a worthy citizen that I might disagree with, but highly respect.