I’m one of those Pollyannas who prefers wondering why we all can’t just get along to strapping on my tools and doing the hard work. This is especially true of politics. I don’t engage with politics at all, I never have. Instead I just stand back, observing and complaining. That’s why I let others carry the flag of political blogging, except, of course, for occasionally indulging myself in bitter recriminations. Political blogging would require real reporting, which is hard work. Besides, there are plenty of people who are doing it much better than I could.
I read an article recently that included a description of a condition called “politiphobia.” I saw myself being accurately described, and I’m afraid that it was less than flattering.
The article referenced a book called, “Stealth Democracy: American’s Beliefs about how Government Should Work,” by John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse (2002). The book described politiphobes as people who basically don’t like politics because it’s messy and inefficient. They tend to believe that “. . . obvious common sense solutions are out there for the plucking.” The authors suggest that a high percentage of Americans are in this group.
That sounds suspiciously like everything that I’ve ever written about politics. I usually accuse politicians of being inefficient at best, mostly self-centered at the expense of their constituents, sometimes borderline treasonous, and often criminally minded. I wonder, from my safe distance, why things like universal health care cannot be instituted immediately. That would, after all, bring many very important advantages to the entire population, by offering us all health security and reducing the nation’s overall expenditure on health care. It would raise our standard of living, extend our lives and raise our country’s GDP as well. Who wouldn’t love that? Except of course the current crop of profit driven providers of health care and medicine, etc.
Low cost education? We’ve had it before, why can’t we have it again? Publicly funded political campaigns? Does anyone in the country like the way that campaigns are currently funded? It is readily apparent that these things, and other wonderful things, are possible, because so many countries have already done them. Why can’t we do them here in the U.S. of A.? It’s a scandal! I’m outraged!
Politiphobia is essentially a negative emotional reaction to events in the political sphere that lacks any positive element of engagement. I saw myself being described, and I was not happy about it.
The major problem, besides greed I suppose, would be bringing these wonderful things about within the confines of what is still a somewhat democratic society. Who should decide these optimal solutions to our challenges? How should they be implemented?
There is, evidently, a body of thinking that envisions a cabal of non-self-interested, rational decision makers, humans that are called, it seems, ensids. That was a new one on me. The word ensid is not in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary (1681 pages; almost a quarter of a million words). Google does not produce any definitions, although it is easy to find mentions of encids in books and articles from the field of Political Science. But how would they be chosen, these ensids? And by whose authority would they act?
Would they be politicians? Technocrats? Autocrats? Computers? To whom would they be accountable, if anyone?
Longing for these things under the flag of “we should just do it!” doesn’t seem like a proper plan for human progress. Trusting any of the entities listed above with authoritarian power would really be a terrible idea. We are left, sadly, with continued reliance on the imperfect system that has gotten us into so much trouble already. Not, perhaps, a good result, but there you have it. Hoping for the best may be optimism or it may be a form of insanity. As usual, I wish us all luck.
Maybe we should hire an ensid to tell us what to do.