Two qualifying thoughts about political office

There has been a lot of talk about how the reputation of British politicians has been ill-reputed due to revelations about their expenses claimed. I heard a day ago an interesting piece on Thought for the Day on Radio 4 yesterday; the speaker said that the only politicians that we seem to admire are those who are not alive (such as Churchill, or Abe Lincoln); or those who are not yet in office; like Obama was last year.

There is a lot of truth to that insight, where otherwise we have a default hatred of those in office. While it is to not to be said that some of the expenses that are said to be claimed have been quite ludicrous; I recall that the original Athenian Democracy paid very little to members of the Boule. The importance of a politician having a wage really shows in those instances where persons of groups who are not normally represented or socially or economically powerful enough to support their position. Persons could be put into disadvantage if the role of a Member of Parliament were an unwaged job. If there were no money for positions of power; the only persons who would take it were those who were economically powerful already.

It would be against the interest of egalitarian representation to completely cancel the renumeration of public servants; on the other hand, a line must be drawn. Consider for instance, the specific needs of the servant: those with children may need to pay for childcare; those with disabilities may need to pay for expensive equipment or modifications to their offices to suit their accessibility needs. It is obvious demagoguery to point out the extreme and bizarre cases, but one should be sympathetic to noticing the needs of those in office.


One thought on “Two qualifying thoughts about political office

  1. I’ve often wondered about the paying of salaries to politicians – and in the US, the paying of giant monster pensions too.The million dollar pensions attract people to these roles solely for personal gain.

    It doesn’t serve to get the best people into political office, but then, not paying a salary wouldn’t either – we’d end up with a heady mix of insane activists and corrupt politicians who know that even without a salary they can make out like bandits by abusing their power and influence.

    I’m not at all sure where the pressure point on the political systems should be to improve their ability to serve the people, but it seems unlikely to be pay and benefits.

    Best wishes!

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