Kakistocracy

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A few years ago — a couple of decades, really — my parents and some visiting friends of the family were playing a game called Slang Teasers. Really, it was a copy of Balderdash: a player searches through a dictionary of obscure English words, selects one, and challenges the other players to write up definitions of that word in secret. The object is not to guess the correct definition — the player with the dictionary already has that — but to come up with a definition that might fool other players into thinking it was real. The player with the dictionary gathers the other players definition, shuffles in the true definition, and reads each one out to the crowd. The players then proceed to pick which definition they think is real. The player that fools the most people into picking their definition wins that round.

While playing this game, I discovered a word within the dictionary: kakistocracy. The word is defined as a system of government by the worst or least competent individuals possible. Better yet, the youngest member of our group who played the game — I believe he was eight at the time — defined the term as “government by people whose minds are filled with kaka.”

Sound familiar? Here’s a hint: look at Parliament Hill today.

Writing this post, I’m forced to pull myself back from expressing myself too intemperately. Whatever favour I’ve felt towards Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have been whittled away by the man’s arrogance, his government’s incompetence, and his party’s depraved cynicism. Elected under a mandate to punish the Liberals’ arrogance and sense of entitlement, his government has become the very thing they campaigned against. Their promise for more open and accountable government remains unfulfilled, largely as a result of Harper’s own intransigence.

We still have no public appointments commission thanks to Harper’s four-year-old fit of pique, incompetent partisans have been appointed to senior positions of government, the public budget office remains woefully underfunded, and the government supplies basic information about its financial plans only when it suits them — only after they’re found in contempt of parliament. Bev Oda is found to have lied to parliament, and she’s still in Harper’s caucus, still taking a limousine from one end of Parliament Hill to another. And Harper cares so little about the tradition of parliament as a place for democratic debate, he prorogues the House whenever working with it gets seriously inconvenient. And a party that was elected to, among other things, punish a government with a defence minister who gave a consulting contract to his ex-girlfriend now has an ex-advisor from the PMO who may have lobbied cabinet on behalf of his girlfriend’s company.

I’ve grown sick of this government — as sick of them as I was of the Liberals after their thirteen years in power. I want to see them defeated in the next election.

Which probably disqualifies me from working with Elections Canada in the election that now seems certain to be called in the coming days.

Oh, well. Though I am sure that I could respect the process and conduct myself in a non-partisan fashion (and, to be clear, Elections Canada has numerous checks and balances to ensure that elections in this country are free and fair. Numerous people participate in the process, including representatives of all parties; it’s quite a well designed thing where partisans and non-partisans work together to bring it all about), I don’t think it would be kosher for me to work in this election after saying what I had to say above. In previous elections, I’ve turned off the political commentary while I was under oath, working for Elections Canada, and the frustration I feel when I look at the Harper record, and consider his approach to the coming campaign, makes it impossible for me to do this this time around. If nothing else, this blog is a personal relief valve for me, and if I don’t speak out here, I could well explode.

It gives me no end of frustration to think that the main alternative to the Conservatives seem equally unpalatable. Maybe the Liberals have learned their lesson after five years in the wilderness, but I’m not entirely sure. There are some bright spots in the caucus, but the overall complexion of the party gives me little to be enthusiastic about. And, note that the Conservatives campaigned for good things back in 2006: that all public appointments be reviewed by an all-party committee of parliament, that the budget office be independent, serving the public before the government. All Ignatieff has to do to secure my vote, in my opinion, is to campaign on the promises that the Conservatives made back in 2006 — promises the Conservatives have yet to fulfill. The Liberals have given no indication that they’re willing to beat that drum.

But I go back to what I said as we came to the end of the tired and complacent Liberal dynasty in 2005. Even if the Liberals had run the government better than they had, it may have been time for them to go. I believe that for democracy to function in Canada, governments have to change. We should get into the practise of switching governments every ten years or so, just so that each party doesn’t get complacent in its position, and so that we build a decent, multi-partisan political class of people with experience in actually, you know, running the country.

Harper’s Conservatives have hit this limit five years early. It’s time to clean house. Who do I want replacing them? I’m not entirely sure. But the time has come to replace this tired, complacent, arrogant government who now feels entitled to its entitlements. Am I confident that the next guys will get it and do better? The optimist within me requires that I give them a chance. And, if not, I’m quite prepared to work as hard as I can to ensure that the average lifespan of a government in this country over the next few years drops until it approaches something akin to the postwar Italian parliament.

Yes, that’s rather like flipping the lightswitch on and off rapidly. But, then, the worst sort of children have taken over parliament these past few years, and they’re fighting. Now’s the time for the parents (us) to take control.


Further Reading and Comments

Why do I believe that the Conservative government deserves defeat? Here’s a post I wrote back after the 2008 election. Sadly, not much has changed since then. If anything, the situation has gotten worse.

Now, I realize that what I said above might have been intemperate, and I’ve made my biases pretty plain. I know I don’t have that large of an audience, and those loyal readers who might not agree with me are appreciated, for they’re willing to engage me constructively in debate. But if you’re a stranger who has stumbled upon this site, I hope you’ll take it with the requisite grain of salt. This is not a news site (particularly one with those unfortunate mudslinging comment sections), this is my personal relief valve. You disagree with me? Fair enough. Care to say so? Feel free. But debate me. Have a conversation with me. Maybe we can come to a better sort of understanding.

Because, really, given the quality of our average partisan politician in this country, we could use more of that.

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