In Defense of the Political Life

ed rosenthal
January 24, 2015

I'm not sure when I started calling myself a politician.  The only political office I've been elected to was my high school student council.   Although I described myself as a political consultant for many years before I retired, I never made much money at it.   The simple fact is that it dawned on me one day that I was leading a political life, and that gave me the right to call myself  a politician.  I'm proud of the name, even though it's right down there with tax collector in popularity with the general public.

And what is the political life?   Well, politics is the process by which collective decisions about government are made.  A political life is one devoted to formulating, shaping, articulating, and adjusting those decisions.  It is sometimes said that those who lead the political life are "political junkies," people who thrive on political gossip, on being in the know about the ins and outs of politics and politicians?   But many of the best politicians have only a connoisseur's interest in gossip, and rely on staff members for most knowledge on non-policy matters.

So what do I mean by the best politicians?  Well, I don't (necessarily) mean the most successful ones, but rather those who accomplish significant policy goals while maintaining the highest standards of public life.

In 1995, the Seven Principles of Political Life were published by the Committee on Standards in Public Life of the British Government.   I have modified them slightly below to fit an American political context:

  • Selflessness: politicians should act entirely in the public interest
  • Integrity: no financial obligations should be accepted if they undermine the politician's position
  • Objectivity: decisions should be based on merit
  • Accountability: all public office holders should be accountable to the citizenry
  • Openness: all decisions should be justtified, and information should be restricted only when necessary for the public interest
  • Honesty: public office-holders are required to be honest in all their dealings
  •  Leadership:  political leadership should honor and uphold these principles

In future posts, I will address each of these principles.

A blog about all the arts, including politics
"for 'twere absurd to think that nature in the earth bred gold, perfect in the instant;
there must be remote matter." - Ben Jonson
"I don't know what the question is, but art is the answer." - Guy Conner

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