Want smarter politicians? or, I Heart Hogs

I called it I ❤ Hogs, because I came up with the idea while tailgating a car with an I ❤ Alberta Beef bumper sticker, and submitted it to the powers that be as “Pay hikes for politicians? Yes, please!” The powers that be called it Want smarter politicians? (July/August 2012, Last Word, Lexpert). Here’s the best paragraph, and the unedited full text follows:

I want to be represented by people who are smarter than I am and more talented―especially in the economic-governing-policy-thinking sphere―than I am. Don’t you? People who get the issues―and if they don’t, take the time to educate themselves on them thoroughly. People who don’t shame me on the public stage. People who don’t stay stupid things to veterans, or fall asleep in the House of Commons. People who don’t make me want to change provinces or nationalities when I hear them speak on the radio. People who will make tough calls based on real information―like, that thing we call science, say―and real principles.

Pig Cakes

Photo (Pig Cakes) by markie 37

Last Word: Pay hikes for politicians? Yes, please

by Marzena Czarnecka

Disclaimer: I am not planning on running for any type of elected office any time soon. Not planning to unseat Nenshi, Redford or Harper. Really. Yes, my father not-so-secretly hopes one of his grandchildren will grow up to become prime minister, but myself, I hope they will be more ambitious. Get a real, productive kinda job. So I really have absolutely no vested interest in any of what I’m about to expound on below. Really.

OK, ready?

I think we should pay politicians more. Parliament proposing pay hikes? Bring it on. MLA’s wanting to put through another pay raise for themselves? Yes, please. City councillors giving themselves a top up thrice the size that of their civil servants? Thumbs up. Fill up the wheel barrows with cash and shower our elected officials with it. And then go back for more.

I want my politicians, my elected representatives to be well-paid. Extremely well-paid. And you should too. Now, I’m not the first whacko to make this argument, and the usual backing for it is the corruption card. Well-paid politicians are harder to bribe: when it takes hundreds of thousands or a few million to buy yourself an MP, well, the economics of the bribe just don’t work, right? (Look at our neighbours south, further south, and even further sound for examples of how the economics of the bribe work only too well.)

I think that argument has some value―although there’ll always be Karlheinz Schreibers and politicians too greedy to stay away from their charms―but the real reason I want my politicians well-paid is because I want to be represented by intelligent, educated, talented people who have… how do I put it diplomatically… options.

People flock to politics for a variety of reasons, some good, some bad. In the good category I’d put passion for issues and commitment to public service; in the bad… misguided hunger for power (misguided because politicians really aren’t nearly as powerful as they think they’re going to be) and, above―this is the kicker―because they’re not qualified or able to do much of anything else.

Son or daughter of stellar entrepreneur with not much of a head for the business? Tired of yachting and hanging with the Twitterati? What to do? “Daddy? Can you get me an office on Parliament Hill?” Sure he will. And breathe a sigh of relief in the process.

Have an LLB but not really stellar partner material? Uninterested in the grind of a court room? Not able to cut it as an in-house counsel? Frankly, just not that into law, but without that inner entrepreneurial drive that you can turn into another kind of career? What to do? “I know! I’ll run for public office!”

Our legislatures are littered with lawyers. You know it―you know them. Some make great politicians; a few were even decent lawyers. The really stellar lawyers, though? Did they go into politics? Of course not. The pay cut would have been horrendous; the post-political career pay-off (“business advisor” at Bay Street law firm) insufficient to balance it out. (The pension, I suppose, might be a draw…)

I’m not just picking on lawyers, although they are overrepresented in our government. Name a profession, look for its practitioners within the ranks of our elected officials, and tell me―are these people who were headed for the top of the heap in the career of their choice? Probably not. Because if they were, they wouldn’t have taken a detour into politics. (No―do not bring him into the conversation. There is the occasional exception. But that just proves the rule. Hush.)

I want to be represented by people who are smarter than I am and more talented―especially in the economic-governing-policy-thinking sphere―than I am. Don’t you? People who get the issues―and if they don’t, take the time to educate themselves on them thoroughly. People who don’t shame me on the public stage. People who don’t stay stupid things to veterans, or fall asleep in the House of Commons. People who don’t make me want to change provinces or nationalities when I hear them speak on the radio. People who will make tough calls based on real information―like, that thing we call science, say―and real principles.

And if you want people like that to run for public office, you gotta pay them. Through the nose.

Because these people, they have options. They’re heading for the top of the heap―of their practice area, their law firm, their industry.

Marzena Czarnecka isn’t running for office. Really. But she has a lot of friends who have. Make that she had a lot of friends who have… “Guys? It was all in good fun. Come on. I didn’t say you didn’t have options…”

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