Who do the politicians work for? April 25, 2012 at 7:03 am

Steve Randy Waldman observes the problem:

The behavior of politicians, in Europe as in the United States, suggests that the people to which they are accountable are not primarily the fraction of their labor force that is out of work. This is different from the 1970s, when elected officials did seem to behave as though they were accountable to unemployed people, and put central bankers under intense pressure to be accommodative. Something has changed.

Jonathan Hopkin has the answer:

[parties became] ‘catch-all’ parties, no longer focused on mobilizing a core electorate, but instead diluting their ideological identities to attract voters from outside their traditional hunting grounds. In order to do this, parties became more centralized around their leaderships, whilst the membership – which constrained the leaders’ strategic room for manoeuvre – were neglected. Increasingly parties become professionalized, with the role of grassroots activists replaced by paid experts in media and communications…

Where mass parties [of the past] acted as links between civil society and the state… [these new cartel parties] have been entirely absorbed by the state, and correspondingly detached from civil society.

In other, plain words, they don’t work for you even – especially – if you are a party member. They work for the apparatus; and that, of course, means mostly those with the money, the media, and the lobbyists.

3 Responses to “Who do the politicians work for?”

  1. No, politicians do not work for the apparatus. A politician works for the voters within the region in which election law says the politician needs to get a requisite number of votes. A politician has malincentives to look out for the interests of backers with money, connections, and such. However, notwithstanding the malincentives, if you actually talk to these people they actually tend to do what their region wants.

    You are ignoring the fact that the poor, the young, and racial minorities — percentage wise — vote less than the wealthy, the middle-aged, and the elderly, so these demagraphic groups are paid more attention, especially as the population ages.

    But all these things are cylical. Waldman is forgetting that.

  2. [...] those of the people. As such, it is very hard to get measures like these enacted. When you have cartel parties, though, such measures are [...]

  3. Thanks for linking, David. In response to vbounded, I’m not suggesting that politicians totally ignore voters – obviously they need their votes. What I’m arguing is that they want to get voters’ support with the minimum deviation from the kinds of policies that rich and powerful interests want. This is easily done, since most voters have little knowledge of policy issues, and mostly little inclination to know more, and certainly they lack the motivation to go out and fight for what they want. Powerful and well organized interest groups, on the other hand, have a lot of knowledge of policies affecting them, and they are very determined to get what they want. This asymmetry is what drives cartel politics.