“Let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
“Living in the light” is a Christian concept emphasizing a life without secrets through confessions and honesty. The basic idea is that if all your deeds are “in the light”, and you don’t hide anything, you will lead a more virtuous life. On the other hand your most evil moments will likely occur when no one is looking. Of course, you don’t have to be a Christian to see the truth in this argument.
In this article I am going to apply this concept to politics. The premise is that visibility and accountability steer decision makers away from corruption and towards an honest representation of the people’s will; whereas anonymity does the opposite. Many people believe that the shots are being called by people who aren’t in the public light. And this is true. Do you know…
…who talks to you?
It’s widely known that most politicians don’t write their own speeches, but what people are less aware of is the age of these speechwriters. For a while now, it has been the standard practice to hire speechwriters fresh out of college. The youth who penned the slogan “Yes we can!” was only 25 years old. I’d often wondered why politicians’ speeches seemed a little too simplistic and idealistic for supposedly wise men of age. Why has this become the common practice? Not money. Speechwriters make decent salaries, and even the speechwriters who make the most money are often young. Could it be that these youths haven’t seen how things really work yet, so they are the ones best equipped to regurgitate popular illusions?
…who writes the laws?
The vast majority of legislation being voted on in congress is not penned by the congress members themselves, but rather by “special interests” behind the scenes. The politicians only put their seal of approval on it after it’s written. We never hear the names of the actual law writers.
…who selects the candidates?
Money is essential in the modern election process. Donors enjoy the privilege of deciding who will be our country’s leaders. The visible donors include the parties, Political Action Committees (whose funding is limited but scope of action is not. PACs, for short), “Super PACs” (whose scope of action is limited but funding is not), individual donors, corporations, political organizations, and unions. All the individuals within these organizations enjoy a veil of anonymity.
…who is ultimately responsible?
Barring election fraud, we voters are ultimately responsible for the direction the country goes, and voter anonymity ensures there’s no individual accountability when we make the wrong decisions. But it’s deeper than just this. Diffusion of responsibility is a psychological concept which refers to the decreased responsibility each member feels by being part of a group. If responsibility is shared, individuals are less likely to act even in the most dire situations. (A famous example of this is residents of an apartment complex listening to a woman get murdered and everyone assuming someone else has called the police). So if this concept is extrapolated to voters, there is the potential that we would feel such little individual responsibility even watching the country in steep decline that we wouldn’t do anything to change our trajectory.
…who gets things done?
But some experts know how to get things done. There are little known names like Arthur Finklestein, whose knowhow has gotten several presidents elected. How did he do this? By knowing pragmatic things about elections like where to spend money, how to discourage voters from voting for the opponent, how to manipulate people’s psychology, and so on. Where is the idealistic democratic “power of the people” in all this? Nowhere. In Mr. Finkelstein’s own words, “in the end, I’ve made things worse.”
…who gets the blame?
There is another way to stay out of the light: shift it to somebody else. In a two party system, politicians are rarely held accountable by their supporters. On the contrary, blaming the other party for the wrongs of society has become a universal practice. The stench of the groupthink in these parties is too offensive for many a man’s taste, but if their propaganda was taken seriously one might believe that the only roadblock to utopian living is the existence of the other party. Quite an anti-democratic sentiment.
…who lives with the consequences?
With term limits, politicians aren’t in office long enough to suffer the consequences of their decisions and actions. Many of their actions are “outside of the light” because the consequences happen after the politicians’ terms are up. This provides motivation for choosing short term over long term solutions, and neglecting to produce a long term vision for the future.
What Modern Countries Govern in the light?
Our enemies. The political systems which are in use in China and Russia put clear responsibility for the direction of their countries on their leaders. There’s no question who is ultimately responsible if the country fails. This raises the question of whether our system will ultimately be our downfall. Will the selfish evils that grow in the dark hinder America enough that we will be surpassed?