Rearview: Beware of the alligators

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If I were granted an audience with President Trump, the one question I’d ask him is: who’s going to pay for making America great gain?  Yep, the same question we’ve asked student demonstrators and utopians since the 1960s whenever they demand a new and just society.

No one answered it then and no one is answering it now. Rhetoric never has to be paid for, except when you try to put it into action.

Trump is no different than any other politician. He has lots of spiffy ideas, which will never become reality. 

Universally, politicians have a nasty habit of promising what they cannot deliver. Donald Trump isn’t the only one—he’s just the flavour of the minute and a good focal point. Every politician seeking a chair in the seat of government makes so many promises that we have come to accept them, despite patent absurdities, as forgivable sins.

It happens in Canada too. So how do we, or can we even, stop these outlandish lies 

Before we, as the electorate, give politicians the nod we have to develop better BS detectors. We have to look at the media without prejudice, or the influence of 4 a.m. tweets, to determine whose opinions are bought and who has a genuine concern for the country and planet. 

To the consternation of a lot of people, modern democracy includes three bodies—voters, government and big business. 

People cast votes at the ballot box. Nothing simpler. The role of big business is more complex. Its ballot is the campaign donation enforced by its ongoing needs. Without saying a word, big business can influence the direction of policy. The prevailing thought is: what’s good for business must be good for the country. (Though what’s good for big business is often not the same as what’s good for small business, the real generator of employment.)

Looking at recent history, its obvious big business—big banks and market traders—punished Obama for his attempt to control them in the 2008 crisis. They suppressed the financial markets (costing small investors enormous sums) until a big business-friendly president was elected. Witness the record growth in the markets since the fall election.

Big business has always been strangely removed from its community obligations as part of democracy’s trinity. “It’s only business.” has become the absolution for any harm it does. Yet for society to progress, things still have to be paid for and big business must work in concert with the people to do that. The electorate, after all, is not a herd of wildebeests on the Serengeti to be preyed on by financial lions. 

Big business needs to step up to the plate for the benefit of the country by putting its cheque book away. 

With technology and globalization outstripping society’s ability to keep pace, it’s now becoming increasingly important to have an arbiter that can balance the needs of big business with the needs of the people, and that’s where good government comes in.   

Government has the obligation to be that buffer, but it cannot fulfill that obligation without a conflict of interest when running campaigns that costs millions or billions. What needs changing is the structure of political campaigns. Open funding has to be eliminated and the electorate has to begin paying for elections itself through a small tax. Campaign costs would be supplied to all parties equally from this purse.

There is still the complexity of governing well. You can’t eliminate complexity and expect to have the same level of service you have now. What we’re hearing today, that government has become too big, is very simplistic and naïve.  

The real danger lies in draining the complexity swamp, because when you do you’d best watch out for the alligators—you may not to recognize them, but they’re still hungry.

Good vibes at The Boh

Good vibes at The Boh

The Bohemian Café and Catering Company (affectionately known as The Boh) is a Kelowna icon.