Monday, July 10, 2006

Best before...

Sweden is a monarchy, ruled by an all-powerful "statsminister" (PM henceforth) with near-godlike powers. After an election the votes are counted, and then the Social Democrat party claims to have won and rules supported by one or two other parties that give them the critical mass of seats in the national assembly.
Social Democrat PM:s tend to stay in power for one to five decades and are replaced only after death, just like the old soviet bosses. They share some other traits as well - a tendency to avoid listening to the people, a habit of giving themselves bigger raises and higher wages than Joe Average could dream about, and a measure of arrogance that is quite staggering.
Swedish political parties are set up to keep the great unwashed from ever climbing the ladder to the higher reaches, while power positions are inherited or otherwise distributed by strange and secretive means. Mostly, the PM simply places all his homies on whatever positions he thinks they may be able to cope with, regardless of suitability to task. No swedish minister is ever a specialist in his field, they are like LEGO blocks and can be swapped and interchanged without incident, since all real power resides with the PM anyway. Thus, a tax minister may find himself an agricultural minister when he returns from a two-month vacation. If he has made some kind of really heinous mistake he may be put in charge of Education, which is the swedish equivalent of Siberia.
This way of governing does not let new blood in, and it keeps the MP:s heads in the thin, rarefied air of high altitudes. Lack of oxygen apparently clouds judgement, as we can see when these political cronies stumble over their own feet and lie about their everyday activities to the press.

I hereby present a humble suggestion: give all politicians elected to any non-local position a tattoo with a sell-by-date. Make sure that they can only stay in parliament a maximum of three four-year terms (or as a minister two terms). If you can't process your agenda in 12 years, chances are you will never get it done. Also, if the politician in question is the son or daughter of a previous MP, the final term is voided regardless of position.
There are plenty of benefits to be had from this. The removal of "old families" would bring in new talent, fresh views (from people less than sixty years old) and above all contemporary values. It would give people with non-broiler backgrounds a chance to shape the politics, since politician would no longer be a life-time occupation. It should NEVER have been allowed to become a lifetime occupation in the first place, and the sooner we stop it the better.
An old argument against rules like these is "politicians with a sell-by-date are easier to bribe than lifers", to which I respond "Horsepucky!". I don't know if the current politicians are on the take, some evidence suggests it, but I know for a fact that they do NOT represent the opinion of the people in a lot of questions.
Also, there should be a basic "sanity and ethics" test, checking things like "is it OK to give yourself a 12% raise and double your staff in a recession?" or "if a foreign head of state says 'give me my political opponent who is seeking asylum, and I almost promise not to throw him to my crocodiles this weekend', should you agree?". A test with a dozen questions like that would exclude more current MP:s than you think. No joke.
We need change, and we need it soon.


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