Assigning Responsibility or Blame

To get the best out of politicians, there must be some way of assigning responsibility or blame, for good or bad performance

As previously noted (, it is very hard to assign blame for economic problems because any economy is subject to external conditions and economic experts have different theories.  And people are easily misled by wily politicians.  The British Conservative Manifesto 2010 referred to “Labour’s debt crisis” (on page 9) – yet the global 2007-8 financial crisis had originated in America (

Political power may be distributed, so that there are always ways of finding someone else to blame within the political system.  The American political system, for example, was designed with checks and balances to prevent presidents from having too much power – so Congress can prevent them from achieving the things they promised.  Presidents and Congress can always blame each other.  The Republican Platform 2016, blamed the “current Administration’s refusal to work with Republicans” (on page 23), for example, leading to what The Economist referred to as Political gridlock.

It is clearly wrong to blame politicians for factors beyond their control.  They can defend themselves, though, by showing comparisons with other similar countries sharing the same problems.  The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) publishes data on all countries, so comparisons are possible for anyone who wants to make the effort to do so.  People can then see whether their politicians have performed better than others elsewhere.

Politicians frequently escape blame.  Most people have insufficient information or understanding to make accurate assessments of complex issues.  They don’t know for certain who is telling the truth.  They tend to believe politicians with whom they feel some kind of affinity (even those who have a reputation for not telling the truth).  They also tend to believe media which reflect their views, resulting in an ‘echo chamber’ effect that also allows conspiracy theories to flourish (


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This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books.  An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/6854b.htm.