6.6.4 The Power of National Politicians
The power of national politicians exceeds that of any other layer of governance; it would be better if more of it flowed up or down.
As argued previously there are benefits in devolving power (6.6.2). The power of a national government is reduced in a federal system (126.96.36.199), but an appropriate balance needs to be found by all governments – whether authoritarian or democratic. The economic implications of political governance within a country were analysed earlier (188.8.131.52), but the political relationships with other countries are also affected by domestic politics: a politician’s attempts to win internal popularity.
The tendency for some national governments to want to keep more power to themselves is regrettable, as illustrated by an article in September 2020: European report finds waning of democracy in Poland, Hungary:
“The European Commission depicted a bleak situation in the two countries. Its wide-ranging audit found that prosecution of high-level corruption in Hungary “remains very limited,” and deemed Poland deficient in the four main areas reviewed: national justice systems, anti-corruption frameworks, media freedom and checks and balances.”
The power of national politicians often seems to increase in their own countries if they are seen to be coercive towards the rest of the world. Perhaps the most glaring example of this is the success of Donald Trump’s slogan: “Make America Great Again”. The damage caused by his brand of economic nationalism was described earlier (184.108.40.206).
The disadvantages of having power-hungry national politicians are examined in the following sub-sections:
● They dominate the internal governance of a country (220.127.116.11). This reduces the benefits available from devolving power. It is partly due to their control over the budgets of lower layers of administration.
● They represent their countries in international negotiations and global governance (18.104.22.168). In this role they often pay more attention to domestic politics than to the long-term interests of the country they represent.
● They can try to gain popularity by whipping up the kind of nationalism that prides itself on opposing other countries (22.214.171.124). This damages the country’s ability to cooperate internationally, and it can feed internal tensions with immigrant groups in the population.
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/edition04/664b.htm.