6.3.3.4 Focus on Serving the Public

Politicians should work for the benefit of the population.  It is their job to do so, and one might expect that they would try to do it well – both for idealistic reasons and to advance their careers.  Unfortunately, though, this is not always what happens:

  • Politicians need political support, but they shouldn’t put that need before their prime function – which is to serve the public interest. They shouldn’t resort to populism (6.3.2.5).
  • The contest for power in a democratic election shouldn’t continue after a government has been formed. Although some politicians would be expected to oppose the government, on the grounds of conflicting ideologies and priorities, they should negotiate constructively to reach agreement.  Failures of politicians to negotiate constructively with each other have often damaged America, as listed in a Timeline of U.S. Government Shutdowns.
  • They should respond to the needs and desires of those they serve – not those who paid the most in donations. The impact of money in politics is reviewed later in this chapter (6.4.5).
  • National politicians can be tempted to try to score domestic political points without due regard to the impact of their words on how other countries will react (6.6.4.2).

The above examples all relate to democracies, but political infighting also happens in authoritarian systems – as reported in a New York Times article: In China, a Rare View of Infighting by Leaders.  The legitimacy of any government, authoritarian or democratic, depends on serving the people well.

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