Democracy: a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve. George Bernard Shaw
The one known about BC’s provincial election October 24, 2020 is that voters will shortly thereafter be disavowing any responsibility for the government they elected because ‘they lied to us.’
A prediction that does not require great powers of prognostication since ‘they lied to us’ is the refrain that has been used for decades by voters as rationalization of their denial of any responsibility for the government they elect
Rationalize: to ascribe (one’s acts, opinions, etc.) to causes that superficially seem reasonable and valid but that actually are unrelated to the true, often less creditable or agreeable causes.
The consequential ‘lies’ of politicians during an election campaign are by omission, the issues they do not speak about and, in the case of issues they must speak about, the aspects of issues they avoid speaking of.
Politicians omit speaking on issues or aspects of issues because voters have trained politicians to behave this way.
Candidates who address issues that voters do not want to face or deal with are punished by voters withholding votes from these candidates.
Candidates who omit and avoid issues voters do not want to face or deal with are rewarded with votes.
Of course the fact that politician’s propensity for lying by omission is a result of voters having rewarded – voted for – politicians who omit the issues on voters’ ‘ to be avoided’ list is a matter of willful denial and a subject ‘to be avoided’ itself.
The issues of governance are issues that involve people and therefore the issues are not neat, tidy, black and white or straight forward. The issues are not independent of each other; an action aimed at one issue can impact another issue or issues.
However it is not the complexity of issues that is the true barrier to good, effective governance. Our ability to learn and reason makes us capable of dealing with the nature and complexity of the issues if it wasn’t for the unreasonableness of human behaviour with respect to matters of governance.
The first major barrier to effective governance is that so much of ‘what everyone knows for sure’ about the issues is incorrect.
The second major barrier lies in how difficult it is to replace incorrect information with the correct information in humans. Confirmation bias has humans see support for what they ‘know’ (whether that is what the facts truly indicate or not) and dismiss or discount facts supporting different or opposing knowledge.
Our understanding of addiction is sufficient that where facts and outcomes experienced are used to set policies and programs, the effectiveness of policies and programs in helping people achieve stable sobriety rises from our current three percent to seventy percent or more.
The third major barrier lies in our having raised willful denial to the level of an art form. A book examining the effects of willful denial is titled ‘The Elephant in the Room’ a reference to the ability of humans and groups of humans to ignore even something as large as an elephant if they do not want see it.
Of course the fact one has chosen not to see the elephant does not change the existence of the elephant.
Citizens demand unlimited healthcare without raising taxes and while willful denial allows citizens to ignore financial reality willful denial does not change the financial reality that, without tax increases, if governments had not limited increases in healthcare spending currently 100% of government budgets would need to be spent on healthcare.
Good governance of our healthcare system would require setting priorities and making the uncomfortable choices necessary to maximize the services our healthcare system can sustainably deliver.
Our healthcare system is not without problems, but it is impossible to be effective in evaluating and addressing problems and issues when the limits imposed by the resources ($$$) available for services, equipment and buildings are ignored.
The biggest problem over the next few years is going to be dealing with and recovering from the financial and economic effects of COVID-19 and we will not begin to know the extent of the financial and economic costs until the economy starts to normalize.
While the rhetoric during the election campaign acknowledged that COVID-19 would have a financial and economic effect, it glibly and by carefully avoid the extent of the costs and pain fallout from COVID-19.
Because, if you want to win an election, you cannot tell voters something they DO NOT want to hear because they will punish you.
Denial does not change the reality of governance but it does ensure voters get the government their behaviour deserves.