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Question of the Week, Week 4

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OK, after last weeks fun question (I never did find the time to reply to it myself. Sorry.), I thought we'd go for a more ethical question. I think these are more fun because there never is a real right and wrong answer. As always, be prepared to back up your answer.This one goes along with my interest in politics, government, and the games that they are part of. This also is geared towards the cynical-ness that it seems so many people have. Hopefully there's enough room in this question for international answers.You always hear of how politicians are liars, crooks, and just plain bad guys. The question is two parted.1)Is it possible for politicians to be totally honest to both themself and their constituents, especially in this day an age, or does the nature of the political beast ultimately make them corrupt? Or rather, is there something in the political machine that "makes them come to the dark side"?2) Supposing that you're one that considers politicians to be corrupt, I ask, at what level of government does the corruption set in? Is anyone and everyone that is involved corrupt? Local city boards? County seats? State levels? National politicians? In otherwords, what level of government do they rise to, before the weight of greed and power take over?Hoping these questions make sense, as I've heard some interesting opinions when I've personally asked these questions.-Brianps, Next week I hope to remember to think up some not-quite-so-heavy questions.

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1) In a representative democracy, what is the role of the elected official? Is he/she to vote as the "will" of the people they represent, or is it to vote as they feel is right, believing they have a "mandate" from the people to do so? If option one, then there will be a minority of people who do not agree and the politician may not agree also. If option two, then there will definitely be a minority who will not agree. Does this mean "corrupt?" What context is your question using to define "corrupt"? Is a politician "corrupt" simply because they follow option one or option two? I assume that by corrupt you are not counting the obvious (bribery, kickbacks, etc.) Further, being an elected official is more of a career now. In our nations' beginnings, being an official was not the primary occupation of the representative, so they had other means to sustain them. Now, all they have is the office; therefore, they must do all they can to stay in office in order to keep their career. This, by default, means that the official is subject to "adapt" their voting record to achieve this goal. Is the politician corrupt, or rather, the system in which the politician operates?Of course, I assume you are talking about the US political system. While I did study the "isms" of other political systems, I do not feel I have enough knowledge to proscribe any judgements.2) Given my statement above, I beleive that the problem comes from when the office is the career. Even at local levels, the mayor of medium to large size cities is a full time job.http://www.thesalters.org/images/Avsim_sig_KS.jpg

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I thought that politics is not allowed to be discussed in this forum, or only if they get out of hand? anyway, I'll give it a shot!I'm not going to get too deep into this topic because I do not know too much about politics. I just have my own opinion.I think that most politicians are there just to fill their pockets. They do anything to get elected and they lie and dig up dirt just to get he vote. Once elected they try to minimize expenses and maximize their own salary at the expense of the tax-payers. They increase all kinds of taxes and fees and decrease services and off course they give themselves a pay raise (that's what I heard here in Canada on the radio - I do not know how reliable it is but I would not be surprized if it's true) So in my opinion most politicians are corrupt and greedy people who don't care.Rarely you do find people who truly want to make their country, state, city etc. a better place. Usualy before election they say that they will increase health-care, education etc and decrease taxes, fees etc, but then it's the other way around after they get elected. This speech is given by all the politicians before elections and for most it's just a big fat lie.One thing that I hate is how the politicians and the media like to dig up dirt.Here is an example: A while back President Bush's daughters were arrested for drinking under age or using false ID's....it's all over the news, WHY? What does that have to do with President Bush running the country? That's what I don't get. Or they say.. Mr X smoked pot in high school....SO WHAT?? how does smoking pot 20 years ago make you a bad person?? It's all about exploiting the little things.Whew....I've waited a long time to get this off my system. Anyone want to comment on my opinion...in a constructive way off course :-) go ahead. I think that this topic can be constructive without getting out of hand.Take careMike

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And if it does, I don't fault Salty one bit for shutting it down. Now on to Mike's answer....What about school board members? I'm not sure if it's the same in all cities, but a lot of members are unpaid. What about city council members in small towns?In the town I grew up in, no councilman got paid, and I sincerely doubt that the mayor did as well. Are they too corrupt? If not, what about if they then run for a county board after serving their term?Second point...Most Senators are very VERY wealthy people. But then they quit their jobs in most cases, to run for Senate. I don't remember what the last pay raise was (and if anyone knows, help me out), but if memory serves, it's not much more than 200k a year. Yes, that seems like a lot of money to the average joe, but when you consider that A) they're leaving million+ plus a year jobs, and :( I would imagine that this can be a VERY stressful job, how can you say that they're only doing it for the pay?And on to Ken's points...Very nicely summed up. But what about the senator/representative that votes for what he honestly believes is best for the state/nation? Even if this contradicts the popular opinion? Is it possible for the congressperson (to keep this politically correct) to have a degree of clarvoyance (sp?) to do what he believes is best for the future of that state/nation?Without naming names (but when he finally runs for Pres again, I think EVERYONE should vote for him), one previous senator did just that. The citizens that I've spoken to will not forget his one vote, because it went against the opinion of the day. History has yet to write whether it was truly a wise vote on his part. Did he do the right thing? I used to have a subscription to Insight magazine. Every week it would have a small summary of the major issues voted on for the previous week followed by how everyone voted. I really wish all of the major news outlets would do this. How else can the citizens decide how their representatives are doing?Anyway, maybe this was a bad question to ask for the week. I apologize if so.Opinions on the question, or even whether or not this topic should die an early death?-Brian

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I believe that in the truest form of representative democracy, the representatives of the people should be the voice of the majority of the citizens he/she represents.The success for a representative democracy depends on an informed, educated, and engaged public.Unfortunately, at least in the US, we have none of the above.The US governemnt is setup using a basis of checks and balances. However, the ultimate check and balance resides with the citizens and their ability to express opinion through voting. When the public ceases to use this ultimate power, then TRUE democractic representation is pushed aside.An excellent book on the subject is "Democracy and Its Critics" by Robert A. Dahl.The best form of government is the "philosopher kings" as prescribed by Plato. The only probelm is finding the right "philsopher kings"! :-lolhttp://www.thesalters.org/images/Avsim_sig_KS.jpg

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Hi BrianLike I said, I don't know much about politics so your statements leave me speechless. I did not know council members do not get paid... :-shy You made points which are new facts to me. I guess that I should not answer unless I know what I am taking about!! :-shyJust one more...I was talking about the politicians like presidents, senators etc..I used to live in South Africa and there people wanted to become senators for power. They were very corrupt and quickly filled their pockets with bribes. The government made laws and decisions to suit them and did not care about others. That's where my opinion about politicians came from. I am realizing now that I was actualy talking about the government in general and not individuals. In South Africa they took your tax money and used it up on things that the tax-payer did not benefit from. Eg. Crime in South Africa is at an extremely high level. The government did not spend money on police officers, training and equipment or to increase the number of police which was low already. They instead made laws that protected the criminal more then in the past and started to make the police powerless. I have only lived in Canada for 1 year now so I am not fully familiar with the government. Anyway, it seems that I am angry with the government... remember that last week you had the "question of the week - week 3" and I said that I would like to run my own country..I guess that's my reasons.This thread is getting interesting.Take careMike

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Thanks for your response. I guess I too failed, in that I automatically assumed you were generalising american politics, when I myself asked for world wide views.As far as councilman, I'm sure larger cities pay their council people, but I do know that it's not enough to live "high on the hog".And one of your comments above actually brings me to one of my original questions. You say that you were referring to upper levels of government. That being said, what level would you consider politicians still being honest, versus what level do you assume corruption.Please don't think I'm badgering you (of course, you and Ken are the only two to respond!). I just think that this is an interesting question to ask people. I admit it, I'm a freak!-Brian

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Ok, here is my stab at your question (albeit in a round about manner). Many things that I am going to say are from an "insiders" perspective because my family is heavily involved in politics so while I was growing up I learned how things work. Now I am only speaking of the U.S. based system, other systems have most of the same problems but each is unique. On the local level I think that most people go into politics with good intentions and want to help make things better but most get side tracked very quickly. More often than not cliques are formed in school boards and city councils, if you are not liked by the cliques your ideas are dismissed quickly and no one will support you so essentially you are ineffective. On the other hand if you are part of a clique there is a lot of "deal making", i.e. if you do this for me I'll do this for you so you may be compromising your ideas to fit in and hopefully get some of your agenda passed. The other bad thing that happens is that local business people will meet the politicians and will be nice to them in hopes of gaining an advantage, they will take them to dinner, give them theater tickets and invite them to parties. I do not think that this is a bad thing as long as the politician will not let theses things sway their votes. We are all human and let's face it these types of things stroke our egos, we like to feel wanted and powerful, and this is what leads to the downfall of their good intentions. On a federal level their are a few differences, in a lot of cases the politician is "groomed" for an office. Both major parties have leadership programs that basically train you on how to attain an office, the drawback is that the leaders of the party will strongly support the people that they like the most and not necessarily the best people to run in the elections, again we have the clique thing. Most of what I have said in relation to the local politics also applies here on the federal level only to a larger degree. You have to do what your party tells you to do to get an important position in the House or Senate, you have huge national and multi-national corporations stroking your ego trying to get your sympathies and the clique thing is at an extreme level here. My opinion is that most of these things are not that bad in and of themselves but it takes a very rare type of person to be able to balance all of this without becoming corrupt, it is too bad that most of the people elected do not fit the bill. It is just human nature that causes the problems in government, we all want to be liked and we all want to feel like we have some power it is just too bad that this is all very addictive. It is too bad that we can't go back to the way that it was intended at our countries founding, farmer Joe decides to help his country and gets elected for a term or two and then goes back to the farm, it worked very well this way. Well I could go much deeper but I won't bore you all with it since this was long enough as it is.Thanks for listening!Philip

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Philip,I generally agree with you. However, I don't think you can treat politicians as a separate breed - humans are political animals at heart, and politics pervades every human organization, small or large, whether its business is government, commerce, education, religion, or what have you.This doesn't mean that professional "politicians" aren't well-intentioned. But, they soon learn that they sometimes have to compromise their principles to get things done. By the time you reach the national level, pretty much everything you say or do publicly must be carefully considered for its potiential effect.Another point is that career politicians have to be incredibly thick-skinned. No matter how popular you are, someone's going to attack you, your family, or your friends, and you have to be able to take it in stride, and sometimes respond in kind. I think this it what prevents many of our best, brightest people from pursuing political careers.-Franklin------------------------------Franklin TesslerG4/500Fly! for Mac Forum Co-moderator

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Yes. Why are you hesitant? As long as it is not offending etc. we want to see what you have to say Joe!Take careMike

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Hi Brian"it's not enough to live "high on the hog"."I guess that's what tempts them to become corrupt...money! I think that all levels can be corrupt and all levels can be honest. I think that corruption is more likely to happen in countries where people do not have too much power. Countries in Africa especialy. I have no idea about American politics except what I hear on CNN and we know that is not a good source to base opinions on. I lived in Romania for 9 years as well and that government was very corrupt after the revolution. THe president and his governors/senators used their powers for their own good and were corrupt. They did not do one thing that they promised before elections. The country became a mess and they became wealthy. That's why my family left the country.I guess that my opinions about politicians come from bad experiences.BTW, asking questions and commenting does not make you a freak and you are not badgering me...bring o the questions/comments/criticism.I also have a good idea (IMO) for next week's question. Can I e-mail you my question? Take careMike

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email me at brian@thehyneshouse.comAlso, I found my old book that is filled with nothing but these questions, yet questions that should be more fun than the last two.-Brian

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I have been a life-long political junkie, esp. on the national scene.First, before I answer "the questions", a modest proposal for a better America:All politicians and issue advocates, down to the level of writers of "Letters to the Editor", should be REQUIRED to take Elementary Logic 101 at their local Community College every two years to obtain a "Public Discourse License".Or, they have to SHUT UP.My answers (as always, my desire for brevity is overpowered by my high opinion of my opinions): > 1)Is it possible for politicians to be totally honest to both themself and their constituents,> especially in this day an age, or does the nature of the political beast ultimately make them corrupt?> 2) at what level of government does the corruption set in? The short answer is: ALL politicians at ALL levels are simultaneously honest and corrupt.The long explanation:1. All politicians are people.2. All people rationalize their thoughts and actions to suit their desires consistent with their belief systems.3. Therefore, in their mind all politicians (people) believe they are honest.The real question is how far toward opposite ends of honest <--> corrupt spectrum are they (and you and I) placed.The answer varies with the issue involved. "Honest" people mostly fall toward that end on most things in their lives.I was an engineer trained to evaluate the ALL the facts available and develop the best solution for a given OVERALL situation. That's my definition of engineering. This is the ideal, and in actual practice is impossible to attain. Conversely, in my humble opinion, and unfortunately for "the people", ALL politicians, even on the most local level, are the most astute people in the world at bending their "rationale" to fit their "needs" on any given issue.This gets worse as you go up the political "food chain", and the "power stakes" become HUGE. If you have real knowledge on any national issue, then you have seen the following in action. Gross mistruths and distortions are foisted on "the people" by both sides, to convince "the great unwashed majority" of the "one true way". This dishonesty is rationalized as necessary to achieve your goals, which themselves "are pure". And, of course, to offset the dishonesty of the other side. Examine your pet advocacy group or pet politician versus the other ("wrong") side, and see if this isn't so. IMHO, this is the greatest obstacle to truly democratic government we have today. We have issues of great national importance. But, because honest, rational discussion and fair compromise decisions based on facts has become nearly impossible, we are degenerating into attempts at mob rule controlled by the best folks at whipping up public opinion for their side. No "side" gets a free pass here. Actually, all this just polarizes people and makes them terribly cynical.Dan Pursel

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Ok, Here goes.. :-)This is from the United States POVQuestion #1Q: Is it possible for politicians to be totally honest to both themselves and their constituents, especially in this day an age, or does the nature of the political beast ultimately make them corrupt?A: I don't think I agree with the form of the question. Constituents, according to my understanding are a representative group who are in your legislative boundaries. This means they are people who voted for and against you. So based on that understanding, there will always be a group of constituents who oppose any decision you make, thereby under their definition, you are not "Totally Honest". It is impossible to please all of your constituents, so IMHO, it is up to the voter to determine the values and opinions of those that they elect. I consider it a responsibility of every citizen with the right and obligation to vote. Most candidates for an office above the City or Municipal level have web sites. Yes that means you have an obligation to do your own research and form your own opinions. (Sounds familiar, huh. :-) ). I also feel that yes, politicians should attempt what they proposed to do. Any politician that promises anything is a fool for the idiots that belive they will accomplish it. I do have respect for someone that promises nothing, shares their views and opinions and says they will try to have something enacted. Then that politician gains perspective from his/her constituents and maybe something gets done. Depends on the legislation.Notice how I did not mention CNN, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc... never look at any political ad other than the humor it is intended to deliver. IMHO, people that use ads to determine who to vote for are IDIOTS. They are too lazy to do their own research, and are the first ones to complain about corruption, and politics. If you honestly delve into how politics work in your area, you will be surprised to find out that a lot of politicians do care, on a local, state, or federal level. I have had the opportunity to speak with many of my Representatives on many issues and have had legislation enacted due to my concerns. So for me, who chose to get involved, yes, the system works. So I believe that the majority of politicians are not corrupt, and do try and be honest to their Ideals, Morals, and the betterment of their community. I vote because the majority of whom I vote for share most, but not all of my views. I would encourage all to do the same. If you are not involved, get involved. You might be surprised at the outcome.I also disagree with the second part of the 1st question. You state:"or does the nature of the political beast ultimately make them corrupt?"I don't know what book these questions come from, but IMHO, that question has an agenda. And one that I disagree with and has history in the press. That statement "ultimately make them corrupt", IMHO, assumes that they will become corrupt. For every politician that is found to be corrupt, there are most likely many more who are not. Example: Trafficant was found guilty of a crime. He is corrupt. How many other Reps. were found guilty of anything in the last two years, and what is that percentage to the overall total of reps. Very small..So I don't think there is a nature of the political beast, I think more people need to get involved. It also means that a small percentage of crooks get 99% of the liberal (US Definition) press attention and the good guys get hardly any press at all.Q: #2 "Supposing that you're one that considers politicians to be corrupt, I ask, at what level of government does the corruption set in?"Again, I disagree with the context of the question, as I disagree that politicians are corrupt and I would like to see factual proof or a study on the percentage of convictions compared to overall numbers of politicians in the USA, so this falacy can be broken down. IMHOSo In closing you wrote:"As always, be prepared to back up your answer"I would like to see first the facts regarding your questions, sources, and bibliographies that formed the basis of your questions prior to me having to back up my responses.Regards,Joe :-wavehttp://home.attbi.com/~jranos/mysig.jpg

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There was a talented Roman general, Cincinnatus (yep, the same) who returned to his farm after each victory. Three times he was called to lead the army, each time he returned to his plough once the job done.

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OK. I'll e-mail you. There is actualy a book with these types of questions? WHat is it called?Take careMike

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I'm surprised at the answers, though, I'm not sure why. The people in these forums have always seemed quite intelligent.Now, to respond to your responses....Yes, after reading what your wrote, I can see that my questions sound like they are biased and leading to the idea that all politicians are corrupt. However, this was not my intention. I have argued exactly what you've argued, before when asking these same questions to people. I believe that politicians by and large are honest. To be honest, if I am cynical (and I am, and have been told this very thing by people before), it's cynical of the everyday joe. The poster who responded that anyone who even writes a letter to the editor should be forced to take courses at their local community college, I agree. I personally believe that too many people in this nation have based all of their opinions on the 20/20 type of programs that were in abundance a few years back. Trust no one. Politicians are all crooks because they were able to bribe 1. Technicians are all crooks because 2 failed to fix their vcr. Etc etc. Yes I am cynical, but it's cynical of "people".Last night my girl friend and I had a discussion about am talk radio. I can't even bring myself to listen to the programs because it seems like all that calls in are idiots who listen to no news, have no understanding of the true facts governing the political decisions, and only call in to b***h about things. It drives me nuts.On the other hand, I think that people enter office with the most sincere intentions, and are suddenly disliked by the public because, among other reasons, maybe they had to compromise one of their promises to get another passed.It seems that the history books always talk of the most influential decisions are government has enacted, and they are almost always based in huge compromises. Yet, the word "compromise" seems be a slanderous term to use when speaking about politicians today. What once made our country great always seems to be looked down upon.Just my rambling thoughts on this subject.And again, you all have given me much to think about.-Brian

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Hi BrianI guess opinions about politicians form based on experience. Most of my life I lived in Countries where politicians were not honest so I started to generalize politicans as dishonest. I's a mistake because I am judging people like that but I hope that with time living in a better country my opinion will change.Take careMike

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Maybe you did base your opinions on your experience, but that's not a bad thing. I actually enjoyed re-reading your original post more after I found out a bit of history from you. Having been born and raised in the US (and in fact, other than 5 days in Toronto, I've never left this nation), it's very interesting to read the views of others. I guess in a way, it makes me realize what I've been taking for granted.Anyway, back to studying (final test for my MCSE...After taking over a year off between test 2 and test 3, I should be able to say tomorrow that I passed 5 tests in under 4 1/2 months! whew!!! After that, it's finally time to take a break and sim for a while without any nagging voices in my head telling me that I should be studying!)-Brian

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That's what I love about the forums. You get to talk to people from all over the world and find out things and learn things. Good Luck with your course.Take careMike

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>I believe that in the truest form of representative >democracy, the representatives of the people should be the >voice of the majority of the citizens he/she represents. >>The success for a representative democracy depends on an >informed, educated, and engaged public. >>Unfortunately, at least in the US, we have none of the >above. > Ok, I'll pick a nit on this one. The reason that none of these exist is because the US in *not* a representative democracy. It never was intended to be such. Just read the writings of the framers. The US is set up by the constitution to be a republic. While the government is elected by the people, they were never intended to be beholden to the people's will (i.e. majority opinion) on all the issues. The people's voice really only comes into play at election time. Frankly, the framers viewed the public in general as maybe a bit too ignorant to make wise decisions on all the issues. That may have changed in 200 years and the roles reversed ;-), but the system is pretty much operating as intended. Mike Monce

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