Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 24 Oct 2018 12am







    Tuesday, October 23, 2018-12:06:54A.M.






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Variations: Got change?

SO far what hasn’t changed is that in each election year, many voters say they want change.

The unspoken assumption is that if we change the current set of leaders, or at least many or most of them, then everything or many things will change.

Very well, let’s test this “theory.”

One can say that the CNMI government’s main problem is that it is too big and has too many obligations. So if voters elect candidates who are for change would retirees agree to pension cuts? Would hundreds of “nonessential” government employees agree to be terminated? Would the remaining government employees agree to paycuts? Would taxpayers agree to pay higher tax rates? Would community members agree to pay more for their healthcare, utilities or their children’s education? Would they stop demanding that their government fund sporting events, fishing derbies and other community activities?

Some say voters should elect candidates “committed to public service.”

Yet any politician who wants to be elected must not only commit to public service, but must, each day, show his commitment to the public, specifically his or her constituents. Otherwise, he or she won’t be re-elected.

Hence, elected officials of whatever political affiliation or persuasion support more funding for healthcare, medical referrals, PSS, NMC, NMTI, scholarships, homesteads, road projects, public safety, government jobs, etc., etc.

The government, in fact, has many obligations because voters demand that it saddle itself with such obligations. Most voters want more of the good stuff and less of the bad, and they expect their elected officials to make it happen, cost-free.

Many voters also say they want to see “smaller” government and an end to “wasteful spending.” But how many would vote for a candidate who is for across-the-board spending cuts and mass layoffs?

“[C]heerful illusions and wish fulfillment have dominated both popular and scholarly thought about democracy for two centuries,” according to the authors of “Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government.” (2016, Princeton University Press)

As economics professor Bryan Caplan, author of “The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies,” would put it, voters have beliefs about how the world works and they support politicians who favor policies that, in the voters’ own minds, will be socially beneficial. Politicians, in turn, need voter support to gain and retain office. Successful candidates usually sincerely share the voters’ worldview.

Most voters, of course, disown selfish motives. Says Caplan: “They personally back the policies that are best for the country, ethically right, and consistent with social justice. At the same time, they see other voters — not just their opponents, but often their allies too — as deeply selfish…. The typical voter’s view of the motivation of the typical voter is schizophrenic: I do not vote selfishly, but most do.”

Now because “voters are systematically mistaken about what policies work…they will not be satisfied by the politicians they elect. A politician who ignores the public’s policy preferences looks like a corrupt tool of special interests. A politician who implements the public’s policy preferences looks incompetent because of the bad consequences…. Why does democratic competition yield so few satisfied customers? Because politicians are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. The public calls them venal for failing to deliver the impossible.”

To quote the American president whose accomplishments in office were such that voters chose a reality TV star to be his successor: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

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