|Posted on February 23, 2014 at 10:20 AM|
Written by Harry Pargeter
Realising that INK politics articles are notorious for regurgitating the A-Level politics course, I thought I would debut a slightly more opinionated answer. Whilst this article doesn’t mean to insult the majority of the world’s population, I wish to comprehensively highlight what I see as the biggest political flaw in the modern and postmodern era, that is largely — dare I say it — due to the ignorance of humanity. Whilst this may come across as a pretentious, naive view of a politically immature schoolboy; I feel there is a clear flaw in our mind-set that both prevents consistent progression in society and depends on radical measures, such as the French Revolution to end stagnant periods of history.
This paradigm described as ‘short-termism’ refers to the behaviour in decision-making and the pursuit of objectives in our current period in history. This has characterised modern day politics, with policy making determined by the short-term wants of the people, or more specifically, the electorate. This averts development within politics with politician’s confined to short-term policy making, with long-term decisions such as the Heathrow expansion bearing the risk of vote loss in future elections. This leads to the question: do people know what is best for them? Take George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor, for example. A Telegraph article in 2011 placed Osborne as Britain’s biggest hate figure for that year, not for his smug grin and elitist background (although that may have contributed) but because people had to suffer in the short-term from his austerity programme.
Let’s skip forward to present day; Christine Lagarde, the IMF's MD, declared — after formerly criticising Britain’s austerity — “the government's long term economic plan is working," reinforced by revised growth figures of 2.4% for 2014. I’m not trying to defend Osborne’s smug smile, but something has to be learnt from this. To end this reciprocal ‘short-termism’ consistently present throughout modern day history, we, [the people] have to inherently change our thought processes to include both the medium and long-term. Whilst this wouldn’t achieve Fukuyama’s ideal of ‘the end of history,' it would promote equal opportunity — a right everyone deserves. Currently, due to the short-term thinking of the few, many are born and trapped in the vicious circle of poverty and depravation. I’m not suggesting an end to ‘short-termism’ would stop this overnight, or even end it at all, but what I do believe is that this change will allow people to open up to the bigger picture of global politics and through personal long-term motives, help give those in poverty the potential to get out.
This is probably beginning to sound like Marxist propaganda, and since I’m addressing a private school audience and to some extent am a product of elitism myself, I feel it’s worth clearing up a few points. I do not believe in equality, well, not fully. What I do believe is that when born into this earth, everyone whatever race or religion should have the right of equality of opportunity to achieve. However, as appropriately described by Lord Sumption, unequal results is “a symptom of the boundless energy, enterprise and variety of humanity.” Therefore, the end of ‘short-termism’ isn’t a step towards socialist reform, but simply a means of benefiting all through a change in mind-set; which in the process should help to create opportunities for those less fortunate.
An appropriate contrast can be made between ‘short-termism’ and Kantian theory. Immanuel Kant’s political thought was underlined by the importance of morality in creating a universally beneficial Cosmopolis. Naturally, this distances itself from the selfish nature of ‘short-termism’ which is often at the expense of long-term progression both within politics, development and society. This reinforces the view that an ethical change on a global scale, however unrealistic it may sound, would help to dramatically reduce and move forward from the problems typically encountered within the postmodern and future periods.
Implausible, idealist and unrealistic are probably the three dominating thoughts when reading this article and to some extent I agree with you. But at the same time, maybe an end to cynicism would do us all some good.