Why do we always elect the wrong people?

June 25, 2009 § Leave a comment

How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent
rulers can be prevented from doing so much damage?

Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies Vol. 1 (New York: Harper and Row, 1962)

One of the things why we Filipinos feel uncertain about the future is our lack of a clear political succession plan. Because we rely heavily on the theory of social choice thru elections, we always think that those elected into office are the “right choices” and even think that these elections are “ordinations”. Yet, we don’t consider that social choice, more often than not, put the wrong people in and the right people out.

The reason why social choice always fail us everytime is the theory has a lot of loopholes, as what political scientist William Riker pointed out in his writings. Riker said that the Corducet paradox remains because social choice, as a component of a functioning democracy, is falliable. And the reason why the same results always surface is the fact that the paradox itself runs on a cyclical way. There is no way to break its course other than political and institutional modernization.

Samuel P. Huntington said that the more social mobilization happens in a society, the more systems become complexed and confused. Violence ensues if government fails to match this social mobilization with political and institutional modernization. That’s always the case with us. We are in a highly confused and often violent state because government’s thrust is always building the economic infrastructures up without modernizing political institutions along side with it. The speed of social modernization has overtaken political institutions.

There lies the problem. Our economy is finally recovering but our political institutions remain old and therefore, perceived to be unresponsive to social reality. This is the source of most of our social discontent.

Now, political and institutional modernization cannot happen without a solid and clear succession plan. It is a political reality that change in our country happens only when the leadership demands it. It is when the inspiration to do things right dawn on the top will the initiative flow down through laws and ordinances. Because implementors holding offices in our old, decrepit political institutions are beneficiaries of old and traditional rewards in a patron-client system of relationships, change more often than not, is relegated to the backburner.

The solution is a total overhauling of the entire political system to allow the infusion of fresh blood. There is a need to “re-imagine” our political institutions through the destruction of old elite groups.

Destroying the elite can either be through parliamentary means or thru armed struggle. I have another option—social syndicalization by re-creating the public sphere.

Through the de-commercialization of media and the integration of New Media, we can lift the level of discussion and inflitrate the public discourse in formal institutions and make it as the primary discourse. That would force the elite to put constructive ideas into action, leading to the modernization of political institutions and ultimately, lead to the dissolution of that communicative barrier that exist between political leadership and the publics. With that taken cared of, we can now directly participate in reconstructing our political system and hopefully, correctly level the playing field and allow fresh ideas to be infused into the superstructure. (for more on this, I wrote a paper entitled ” Where are we headed? Challenges in Political Succession in the Philippines”)

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