This is the problem. Elections are supposed to work on the idea that candidates who believe in different visions of society all stand, and lay out their platforms. The voters inform themselves of the various options, and then elect a government which carries out the platform it was elected on. All well and good.
But that’s not what happens, because we now live in a time where politicians can know not just what voters say they want, but actually know more about what motivates voters than the voters themselves now. On top of that, we have a generation of politicians who are happy to be elected to office even if it is on a platform they do not believe in. Both Barack Obama and Bill Clinton oppose the death penalty personally, but changed their public views to get elected. Bertie Ahern implemented a benchmarking process which was popular but flawed through lack of actual cost saving implementation, which he must have known.
We have managed to create, across the western world, a political system where voters believe they have a right, like the spoiled children of a wealthy couple, to not be ever confronted with “No”. They demand more and more spending, and less and less taxation, and react violently against any politician who points out the discrepancy.
We have created a democratic roundabout where voters demand stuff which politicians try to deliver by getting voters to pay for it, which then angers the voters who elect new politicians who try to deliver, and so on and so on. Is our gap between spending and revenue anything but that?
How do we break the cycle? We start by ending the ongoing self-perpetutating professional political class, and that means taking the means of changing the political system away from politicians. We need to amend the political system to allow for the election of people who do not want to make politics a lifelong career, but want to get certain things done, and then return to “civilian” life with the rest of the population.
The one thing that would allow the public to change politics would be to allow the public to propose non-financial amendments to the constitution. Not to decide what county gets what in cash terms, but to change the voting system, reform or abolish the Seanad, cut the number of TDs, limit the number of councillors or the length of time someone can be a TD, or other possible reforms. All the things that they will never do themselves. Giving us, the voters, this power is the gateway to changing everything else from TDs expenses to proper regulation of the banks.
Of course, there will have to be safeguards, like a requirement for 30,000 signatures and a 50% turnout. But if any politician tells you that it’s too risky, ask them this: Could it cripple our economy anymore than the current system did?