En Words

A place to talk about words - whether from books, stories, magazines, brochures, or matchbook covers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Partisanship, Pay, and Politics

I was listening to an NPR interview of New York City mayor and media mogul Michael Bloomberg. Aside from the interviewer repeatedly trying to bring in the concept of a presidential bid and Bloomberg unequivocally saying that he absolutely would not run, there was an interchange on the nature of politics in areas like education. Bloomberg is an expected fan of capitalism and the power of incentive. Pay to get things done and, if they don't get done, pull back the rewards and try something else. And when asked about the problem in politics, Bloomberg said it was partisanship.

However, I'm not sure that the two are differentiated. There are "partisans" in capitalism, in the sense that different groups will have varying interests and will want to be the ones that get market rewards. Often they will compete for the same rewards. That is what happens in politics, I think. Political parties may think that they know what is best for the country, but more too often they seem to be more focused on what is good for the party. Each is responding to the market forces of incentive, only the incentive is paid for self-interest, and not for solving public problems. The difficulty is that the money and power as forms of payment come from controlling political offices, not from actually getting something done. Instead of working to get rid of that sort of payoff, we should redirect it - get the spoils of political war by actually achieving something positive. But then, we'd all need to agree on a definition of the public good, and that may be the most difficult part of all.

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