Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lessons in Politics

The Canadian left-wing party, the New Democratic Party, is moving further left with its Leap Manifesto.  So, this reminded me of one basic idea in politics and other stuff online reminded me of a few others.  So, what are the basic lessons or rules of politics:
  • Lesson #1:  Everything is political.  I get very frustrated when someone says that x or y is not political.  If it is something that can be or is allocated by public officials, then it is political.  Politics is about the allocation of stuff via someone making decisions (as opposed to the market making decisions, but then again, letting the market decide is a political decision). 
  • Lesson #2:  All politics is local.  Tip O'Neil was not wrong about this.  Politicians care about those who control their future, which means that those within constituency boundaries matter more than random folks elsewhere.  For autocrats, it means those who can coup or otherwise remove them.  For democratically elected people, it means those within the voting districts and especially those who show up.  In primaries, that means the less moderate, more passionate people (which makes the NDP decisions this weekend akin to Feel the Bern folks or, dare I say it, Trumpsters who show up when others do not).
    •  The temporal corollary of this is that nearly all politics is in the short term.  Hard to look at the distinct horizon when one's future is decided every 2/4/6 years.  So, local can also mean near term.
  • Lesson #3: What individuals want and what is rational for the collective are often two different things.  The fundamental lesson of the prisoner's dilemma and the fundamental problem posed by the collective action problem is that what is rational for individuals often leads to bad outcomes for the collective. And then once one builds in psychology/personality and other stuff, getting from individual desires to outcomes that are collectively good is a pretty hard trick.  

I have a deadline or two, so this quick rant is woefully incomplete. What am I forgetting?

1 comment:

Rob Chasen said...

We can't say that they didn't tell us, right up front, that the Tragedy of the Commons is, well, a tragedy.