The world’s second oldest profession

November 7, 2019


                  

  Clearly, democracy is ridiculous and politics is senseless, but there are many people who truly believe that they can make a difference — that there ought to be a better way of doing things, and that they can be of service. In Guam and the CNMI, that’s probably over 99 percent of the candidates in each election year.

 

 

Saipan — When someone says something “smart” about government, society or community, etc., we usually tell that someone to run for office. As if running a government is a quiz show. You just have to be “intelligent” with a ready answer to the “burning” questions of the day.

  

Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas graduated from Princeton and Harvard and served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist while Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez graduated cum laude from Boston University with a degree in international relations and economics.

 

But I don’t think people who disagree with these lawmakers’ politics would consider them brainy.

 

In politics when someone says you’re intelligent it usually means, “I agree with you.” And those who dare disagree with us can only be morons.

 

If you look at the history of many democracies around the world, you would find a lot of bright if not brilliant politicians who were in charge of government, and were surrounded by equally bright and brilliant advisers as they tried to solve economic, societal and other problems. And yet today such problems still persist. Even in countries whose grass looks so much greener compared to ours.

 

A problem without a solution, says Jonah Goldberg, isn’t a problem, it’s simply a fact. But you can’t say that to a voter if you’re a candidate for office. And so in each election year, there are always young, educated and highly promising candidates who will get elected to “solve problems.” After a term or two, many of them will be considered part of the problem.

Says James Q. Wilson: The chief cause of problems is solutions.

 

In the CNMI’s case, will electing “reformists” into office boost tourist arrivals, attract more investors and revive the economy? Achieving those things will generate more revenue for the government which can then meet its most pressing obligations.

 

Usually,  “reform” candidates promise things that only an improving and growing economy can deliver; and yet, more often than not, many of these candidates also promise to make it more expensive, more cumbersome and more exasperating to do business in the CNMI.

 

Clearly, democracy is ridiculous and politics is senseless, but there are many people who truly believe that they can make a difference — that there ought to be a better way of doing things, and that they can be of service. In Guam and the CNMI, that’s probably over 99 percent of the candidates in each election year.

 

 The “problem” is not that they can’t deliver everything or most of the things they promised; the problem is our insistence that they can. Basic arithmetic plainly tells us they can’t — unless someone discovers plenty oil or a mountain of gold or both somewhere in the CNMI. And then it would be all good. But only for a while. Government, now and then, all over the world, will usually end up spending way more than what it collects or hopes to generate — because the people can always vote themselves more money.

 

Here in the CNMI, let’s say the public voted for “change” (again) and elected many reformist candidates (again).

 

Would the voters’ expectations change? Would they stop demanding good-paying government jobs? More and better roads? Better and more affordable utility services? More generous scholarship programs? More funding for medical referrals and other public health services? More funding for public schools and the college? More funding for homestead infrastructure? Pay raises for public school teachers, healthcare workers, police officers and other deserving (meaning, all) government employees? Would members of the public stop “requesting” funding for sporting events, school activities, fiestas, fishing derbies, off-island travel, etc.? Would taxpayers pay more taxes?

 

My ideal elected official is someone who will do no harm. In the CNMI’s case, he or she will try to meet government obligations, and won’t create new ones as much as possible. In questions of legislation, s/he will look into the pros and cons, conduct research, consult acknowledged experts and those who will be affected by the measure. S/he will acknowledge that acting impulsively may create unintended consequences. S/he will prefer deliberation to grandstanding.

 

Lastly, I want an elected official who approaches the most controversial, most mind-boggling issues of the day with humility, and who, like the poet Wislawa Szymborska, is willing to say, “I don’t know.”
 

 

 

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Zaldy Dandan is editor of the CNMI’s oldest newspaper, Marianas Variety, and author of three books available on amazon.com

 

 

 

  
 

 

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