Goals for 2100: Top Governmental Officials Get Day Jobs
It is possible for a person to become wrapped up in his/her day-to-day activities and grow out of touch with the larger world. This can happen to a president, Supreme Court justice, or member of Congress, just as it can happen to anyone else.
True, elected officials are supposedly in touch with what their constituents want, if they hope to be re-elected. But this does not necessarily happen. Such people are often able to win re-election through deceptive political advertising, negative campaigning, and other strategies that tug at voters’ emotions while leaving their larger life situations neglected. Thus Americans, with their votes, have managed to spend many years in periods of excessive tobacco use, unpopular gun laws, substandard health care, and other circumstances that they actually do not want, circumstances that other advanced nations have been far more able to address responsively.
The suggestion here is not that the president should go back to a high-powered law firm, Hollywood filmmaking, or whatever it was that s/he did before becoming a politician. The suggestion is, rather, that top leaders should be expected to spend a substantial number of hours, each week, working in a type of job that exposes him/her to a variety of real-life problems that people face. Examples could include positions as counselors, social workers, nonprofit organization administrators, small businesspersons, legal aid lawyers, nurses, and community leaders.
Such leaders should be exposed, moreover, to real-life living conditions, to some practicable extent. It is perhaps not realistic to imagine that a president could get a good feel for the life of a homeless person merely by tenting out in a park, surrounded by Secret Service agents. Nor is it likely that such a leader would have the time to run an ordinary middle-class household. But there may be some sort of living arrangement that would provide at least some constant reminder of what people are experiencing. One example might be to live as a guest within a host family’s home and to participate in that family’s decisionmaking.
Such activities would detract from the number of hours available for affairs of state. They could also distract the leader’s attention from important decisions that a national leader must make. That is an important concern. It is not necessarily crucial, however. Leaders spend much of their time undoing the damage (or reversing the progress) that previous leaders have managed to achieve. While the distraction of a real life could hamper a leader’s ability to achieve some things, it could also inform his/her judgment and instincts, so that the things that s/he did pursue and accomplish might be more likely to endure — within, perhaps, less of a cultural of constant governmental upheaval.
It is also true that any job, including particularly a job in government, can become encrusted with internal politics, gossip, resentments, and other potentially destructive behaviors. Leaders, in particular, can become accustomed to their comforts. to the point of being spoiled. Whether or not the leader in question felt invigorated by regular exposure to the lives and problems of normal citizens, some such removal from a potentially insular world could be invigorating in fact. There have been too many American presidencies, in particular, that have become insular, inward-looking, suspicious of the press, afraid of the public, and otherwise unresponsive and irresponsible.
The American government of 2100 can be more truly a government of the people, by the people, for the people. Insuring that decisionmakers are ordinary people, directly or at least vicariously, could help to advance that goal.
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