Who'd want to be a politician now?by Bronwen Maddox / December 10, 2014 / Leave a comment
Published in January 2015 issue of Prospect Magazine
Who’d want to be a politician now? This is a tough time to run a government in a western democracy. Politics in the coming year amounts to the management of disappointments.
Some of that task is the result of austerity, recession, and the attempt to pay down deficits. It isn’t new that many of the older democracies have high levels of debt. The drama of debt runs through the history of the 20th century. But it is a new strain to try to pay down those debts and close the budget deficit—the gap between what the government takes in revenue and what it spends—with an ageing population and so a shrinking base of working people to tax. What is more, people have built up—through election promises, manifestos, Budgets, in sedimentary layers since the Second World War—very high expectations of what they will receive from the state in pensions, healthcare and education. Confounding those expectations means telling voters “that bargain you thought existed between you and the state, well, it’s being redrawn, and not in your favour.”
Yet governments have fewer levers to pull than in the past. Moisés Naím, the Venezuelan economist, in 2013 achieved a bestseller with The End of Power. Power had dissipated, he argued, away from governments and other traditional institutions, to individuals…