Stop the Political Short-Termism

In our Western democracies, what are the largest obstacles we face in our political system? Obstacles countries like China e.g. don’t face. The largest issue we see in our Western political systems is a result of short election periods.

Depending on the country, elections take place every three, four, five, or six years. Therefore, sitting leaders and politicians have one year to come to grips with the new position, one year to actually follow through with their agenda, and two years are used to actively work on a re-election. As you can see, on the face of it, three years of a four year election period are completely wasted.

However, the worst thing is not the time being wasted campaigning, it is the short-term actions which are necessary to convince the voter to re-elect the leader in the future. Instead of working on real issues, politicians prefer short-term fixes with immediate results over long-term visions. Why not fix a few roads here and there, do this and that if it results in a re-election?

While short-term fixes are oftentimes necessary, they should not be the measurement of a politician. The problem lays in the nature of long-term visions: it is impossible to see results in the short term. Big infrastructure projects need time to be planned and build. As it takes time to formulate large policy reforms or follow through with ambitious experiments such as a universal basic income. 

If you see great advancements in your city – it is unlikely a result of the current mayor and probably not even of the former mayor. Great advancements in your city today are the result of proper planning of some politicians ten years ago. Those politicians who have probably been voted out of office because they prioritized long-term goals over short-term fixes.

What we need is a new way to define long-term goals. How about letting voters vote on ambitious long-term goals? How should a country look like in 10 years? 25 years? 50 years? 100 years? Let them re-confirm and re-define the goals in every election period. The next step would be to introduce a measurement system for current politicians. How did an elected politician advance along the long-term agenda in his term? Did he actually pursue the long-term agenda or did he favor short-term fixes?

Don’t let it be a politicians job to define and pursue a long-term solution within four years. Let him work on a pre-defined long-term vision, approved by all voters.


Photo by Ferran Feixas on Unsplash

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