Sunday Stories: Anti-political politicians
“I will not allow anybody to destroy the education that allowed me to become who I am.”, said a politician in response to the question whether it was possible for him to agree on reforming an education system reported to increase inequalities. A sentence which he knew to appeal mostly to the unfortunately many with unfortunate experiences with schools. As he knew whom the sentence “I am the living example that you can make it also if you’re born from working class parents.” would appeal to. Sentences hovering like drones above the heads of voters which believe there is only one bigger enemy than politics: statistics. Sentences that will fire their charge with surgical precision on any politician daring to rely on a statistical finding.
Some politicians like to focus on the ever increasing gap between politicians and their electorate. From another politician: “I earn only a modest income so I know what life is like for an average voter.” The anti-political politician is not monopolized by the right. Politics by hysteria replaces politics. Nobody even tries to explain what we know about the facts. If somebody tries she’s set aside as a naive nobody, the real politicians who hate politicians smile wearily and that’s that. I know who stands to gain from this type of politics although I don’t know whether it’s by design or by invisible hand that our politicians get converted into a selectorate of one-lining sons of bitches which glorify and praise science as long as it is not applied in the social sphere.
It matters: if it’s by design we can only fight it. If we fight it we need to use weapons even more powerful than theirs. Which means we will lose. If by invisible hand we can educate and apply some real politics to cancel out the bias and move on.
I’m naive but the question is: how naive are you?
Following is the set-up: 100 balls are put in a jar. One of them is black. You are asked to pull one out, blind. What is your confidence that the ball to be pulled out is black? If you are an anti-political politician that confidence will be about 100%. You will pick the one bastard who will only pretend to be poor in order to get benefits. You will pick the one politician who took the bribe. You will pick the one disenfranchised son of a bitch who, against all odds, became a self-made man dealing in franchises.
How come? Well, you’ve been selected out of hundreds of political wannabe’s by your ability to disregard the rule of not looking through your fingers whilst pulling a ball out. At first you may have felt bad about this but along the way you have come to realize this is what it takes to get things done your way. So you do it once, you do it twice and you keep on doing it until you kind of forget what it was you wanted to get done. But it doesn’t matter anymore because one thing you can be certain of: all of the others are doing it as well and in their case, unlike in yours, it is not that clear that they felt good about it all along because they took the bribe willingly and just do as they’re told.
So let’s convert our political wannabe’s to 1000 balls. There are two types of balls. One type grows bigger with the demands that are made of her ego (on one side because her ego swells under the attention on the other side because she can put aside her current ego in order to reach a higher goal), let’s call this ball the meritocratic ball. The other type shrinks under those demands because he’s never quite sure whether he is right or wrong and would like to seek some more evidence but also because he kind of abhors the center of attention. 900 out of the 1000 balls are of the second kind. The sampling is done after multiple years of growing/shrinking at a rate of 10%. How many of 100 balls will be of the first type. Yeah, right, somewhat more than 10%. Most of the others become academics but that’s another story.
The remaining 100 balls, well, that’s our selectorate: the people we can choose to represent us. We can divide those into two types again. One type (gray) takes 1000 words to make a point and another has an immediate appeal (let’s say it’s pink). You let an innocent kid pull 10 balls. How many of those 10 will be pink? These are the people who rule us: on average ego-centric and almost certain to be willing to trade nuance for success. And this comes on top of the kids of the current elite (10 out of 100 balls) outnumbering any other kid (90 out of 100 balls) 9 to 1 in the elite schooling anyway required before the survival of the politically fittest starts.
[By the way, this does not mean that none of our rulers can turn out to be benign either because he slipped through the sampling against the odds or because she is one of those rare benevolent people who can surf the system until they are on top after which they revert to normal. It unfortunately is my feeling that the outside chance of benign benevolent survivors in the political race is not exactly increasing.]
So now you made it, you’re part of the 1%. You know what it took. What are you going to say about politicians? The simplest is to just tell the truth, the anti-political truth. Certainly don’t talk about the fact that the simplest model for any issue is that of 100 balls with two colors and a blind sampling methodology. Let alone help people understand even that simplest of models and make up their minds how many balls of this kind or the other. No, just take the black ball and make it into a scapegoat, get the votes and do as you please.
I’m an optimist. People will understand eventually. The problem is that I don’t know what will happen before that eventually happens. I will support politicians who try to explain instead of score; who try to adapt rules before playing a game that’s rigged. I guess I’m playing the long game. Forcing the issue is accepting my loss.
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