The cost of negative politics

The 99%/Occupy stuff has me thinking…

Subjectively I don’t buy the argument that life hasn’t improved since the 70s. There are serious problems with the ultra-Corporatist/crony Capitalist system that has developed, but I can’t think of anyone who would swap today’s housing, healthcare, computing, transport or leisure for that of the 70s. So I have a lot of doubts about how accurate (or appropriate) the “stagnation” measurements are.

There’s certainly something irking people though. Part of it is societies failing to live up to their implied promises, particularly the availability of well-paying, fulfilling jobs. But I think it’s more than that.

For the last few decades, (by historical standards) life in the Western world has been pretty damn amazing. Politicians haven’t been able to get passionate support for improvement programs, because on the whole things have been pretty comfortable. Our wealth has made us complacent. So, to generate passionate support, politics has turned negative.

For a long time we’ve had both sides of politics consistently telling us how bad things are. And now, we’re starting to believe them. But instead of rushing to support the traditional parties, people are instead rejecting politics (and IMO more worryingly, liberal capitalism). And what other choice do we have? We know they’ve been lying to us. We know they’ll say anything to get elected, then continue to look after their contributors and big business mates*.

That’s not to say politicians are cynical and soulless. Honestly, I believe most of them think that they’re doing the right thing. That’s the tragedy: that they believe bailing out failing financial institutions, propping up monopolies, going to war and playing hate politics is worth it, just to keep The Other Party out.

Combine the negative rhetoric with the real problems brought on by Corporatism and people finally have the trigger they need to start forcing societal change. But they’re not getting political, they’re getting anti-political.

I won’t mourn the loss of our current grubby politicking, but I do worry about what will replace it.

  • I don’t have a problem with big business (some of my best friends are big businesses….) but I do have a problem with governments providing them with disproportionate support and political influence.
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