Published on November 5th, 2012 | by Zachary Shahan2
How We Screw Ourselves
November 5th, 2012 by Zachary Shahan
It’s very popular to complain about the government, to complain about politicians. However, when do we take responsibility for our role in the matter? Furthermore, criticizing government or politicians across the board is absurd — it’s like criticizing food across the board, saying it is all bad for you.
All Food is Not Bad for You, and All Politicians Are Not Corrupt
As someone not obsessed with politics, but who follows it moderately (trying to do my civic duty), I can tell you that there are a lot of good politicians out there. There are a lot of people in the field of politics who are in the field because they want to help the world, or at least their country.
I don’t think that’s most politicians, but I’ll get back to that point in a moment — for now, let’s take a look at where you would be if it weren’t for government or good politicians….
- Would you have clean air and clean water (some of the cleanest in the world)? Chances are slim. Corporations would do what they please, pollute where they please, and let you die young without a thought. (See this and this.)
- Would you be educated and have a relatively high standard of living? Unlikely. The U.S. is where it is today largely because of its high-quality education systems, especially made possible because of the basic education our governments provide. I’m not saying that hasn’t been degrading, especially relative to the rest of the world — see this and this. And I’m not saying the U.S. has the best education system or standard of living. But it’s still up there.
- Think about the wide variety of foods you have available, the wide variety of goods, the wide variety of leisure activities — those things don’t come from a failing government.
The U.S. is far from perfect. We’ve got serious problems with:
- A growing wealth divide
- Lack of peace
Societal Problems Are Your Problems
You can put some of those problems on individuals if you are so inclined, but most (if not all) of those issues are issues that affect all of us, and all but the last (in my opinion) are the clear result of societal failures.
We are responsible for the policies our government sets, and what we allow corporations to do in the name of profit.
We are responsible for who is in office making the laws and regulations that guide our country.
The causes of the problems above are not just mistakes and are not simply “natural.” The causes are largely (if not in all cases) because corporate interests have more influence than societal interests.
And why is that?
Because society is not paying attention and/or working to ensure the government accounts for society’s interests. (And, remember, society is you.)
It’s actually quite simple. Some corporations, some products, have negative effects on your health and wellness. Government should step in and make sure the costs of those effects are internalized by the corporations and the price of the goods are thus more reflective of their true costs. That way, society wouldn’t over-purchase things that have high indirect costs.
Collected fees should also be used to mitigate the negative effects as much as possible.
However… for the most part, we aren’t paying attention to the issues. Corporations are able to invest a bit of their money into corrupt politicians who act on their behalf. Since many of us aren’t paying attention (and sharing information — real information, not propaganda), a few 30-second commercials and substance-less pep rallies get corrupt or confused politicians elected into office.
The solution certainly isn’t to kill government. That just gives such corporations more power.
It certainly isn’t to be cynical and leave politics for other people. Again, that just puts us in a worse position.
The best solutions, to start, are:
- Know who you vote for and what they actually do in office.
- Inform others who might not know what’s going on.
- Know what issues really need addressed and how to best address them, according to the best research and science out there.
Do Your Bit
Do your bit this election. Inform yourself before voting, go vote, and get others to do so as well!
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