Sunday, November 18, 2012

The pathology of being young and wanting to be a politician

Having seen the oh so earnest and enthusiastic tweets from those attending the Young Labour conference in New Zealand, some thoughts came to mind.

Why would anyone ever aspire to being a leftwing politician in a modern liberal democratic state?

What sort of psychological profile inspires someone young to want to lead others?

I remember years ago Bob Jones noted how he had been asked to speak at some event for "young leaders" of the future, of what it takes to be a good leader.  His response was that this was the last thing that young people should be encouraged to do and that, at the time, the country's main problem were due to a certain chap who was only too keen to "lead others" (Rob Muldoon).  

I have some sympathy for this.  The key focus for anyone young should be to pursue their own ambitions and aspirations to achieve, not to aspire to push others about (have no bones about it, that's exactly what joining a statist political party is all about) or to aspire to take more money from those who have achieved and to spend it, as if you're somehow entitled to spend other people's money.

I understand the interest in politics and wanting to "change the world" around them.    However, it is one thing to invent, to establish a business, to raise money or work for a charity, it is another to aspire to pass new laws, to take more money from people and spend it because you know better than they how best to do so.

That is precisely what all the delegates at a Young Labour conference are saying.   

It is a pernicious belief that not only do you have confidence in yourself to live your own life, but that you know best how to run those of others.  It's a patronising belief that those less fortunate than you will only be better off if you give them more money that you've taken from others, that you organise the world by telling business, with threat of force, how they should contract with others, how they should price and sell products they make or purchase.  

It is swallowing an entire belief system that is negative about the ability of people to make their own decisions, it is suspicious of entrepreneurs, it is the belief that other people's property is everyone's and that a small group of selected adults can know best how to mould society and individuals.

It is, despite their professed belief they are supporting the disenfranchised and disadvantaged, a belief in elitism, not in the sense of being best, but in believing in the right to rule others.

At a time in life when the primary concerns should be what education to pursue, to advance a career that one gets passionate in, and to explore the world, meet people, find those who complement who you are and your passions, the idea that a key goal has to be to align with people whose main goal is to tell others what to do, is pernicious and pathological.

If you want to lead, lead yourself.  Take a risk, create something, make a business out of nothing and use your confidence to convince people to spend their money on what you sell, or on the charity you advance.

Only when you've done that, faced up to dozens upon dozens of naysayers, had to deal with the laws and the bureaucracies that enforce them, had to give up part of what you've worked hard for in tax, will you then have some perspective on those who think they know best how to run the lives of others.

While you're at it, ask yourself how many 16 and 17 year olds have done any of that, and whether you still think that counting their heads, rather than what's in them, is really going to make things any better for anyone - except the politicians who think they can sell their own brand of snakeoil most readily to that group.

Meanwhile, go into your political party seminar and advance a counter-argument to the usual predictable monologues you hear there, and see how liberal, open-minded and intellectual they really are...

oh and Young Nats?  Don't think you're that much different, given the historical record of how your leaders turn out when they get the handles of power - for they are barely distinguishable from those on the other side.


Mark Hubbard said...

Great post. This topic has been a bugbear of mine for a long time.


Excellent piece that deserves a far wider audience

Anonymous said...

I agree entirely!
One of the many things that concerns me about John Key is the story that he wanted to be Prime Minister since he was 12.
And now he leads like a 12 year old.