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31.10.2017 Feature Article

What Political Instrument You Wan Play?

What Political Instrument You Wan Play?
LISTEN OCT 31, 2017

I finally stepped out to a jazz club recently, to see how much our music habits have changed and to just measure my own appetite for the kind of music I used to enjoy many decades ago now.

And it was good music. There are a few really good musicians out there I noticed, playing good rhythms and very good solos and holding a beat to delight. I enjoyed myself, which got me thinking, how do we manage a good band with good music and yet we can't manage a political party which is less complex because we all, at least, in a party shouldn't need to have identical ideas of where we are heading? So we can be out of harmony but still get the votes in.

Unlike a band playing to the same melody and beat, not all people act politically in a self-interested manner. Some may believe that they should not vote for their self-interest rather they should vote in the interest of the country. Some may even believe it is wrong to act politically on the basis of personal interest.

A prime example of this is in John Rawls “A Theory of Justice”. Rawls argues that people should develop the political system from behind a “veil of ignorance”. Essentially he puts forth a scenario where people are creating a new government but each person is unaware of what their position in society will be. So every person is motivated to create the most just system possible.

It is intended to eliminate self-interest in political choices and instead focus purely on making the best system for all people. That shows that at least some people may actively choose not to vote on self-interest. They may vote purely based on the interests of the nation as a whole.

Other examples of political behaviour that is not self-interested are the various CSOs and NGOs around the country. Those individuals engage in political activity that may have no benefit for themselves, because they believe it is the right thing to do.

Self-interest and group identity are intertwined and it may be impossible to ever untangle them.

So when we have a Delta Force, and these so actively encouraged groups whose selfish desires intertwine with their individual desires to be made whole by their party in power, we lose the balance between individual desires and national desires to see the party succeed for the better of the country rather than the personal pockets of the instrumentalists who sing and play to their bank accounts.

It is commonly assumed that much of political behaviour is driven by individual self-interest. People vote for tax breaks, better school or larger social programs to benefit themselves. But when this assumption is empirically tested the results are mixed; it seems sometimes self-interest drives political behaviour and other times it does not. Those results are due to a couple factors, first self-interest is very complicated, second group identity also influences political behaviour.

The complexities of individual self-interest inherently make it difficult to empirically evaluate the role of self-interest in political behaviour. First off, self-interest is a feature of the individual and their particular circumstances. Each and every person has different needs and desires, which inform their idea of what is in their best interests. Also each individual has different perceptions about the best manner to solve the problems they face and thus may endorse different courses of action even when faced with similar problems.

Some researchers assume that, on the aggregate, people in similar positions will face similar problems and thus show some similar behaviour based on individual self-interest. This in fact can be shown when voting varies based on economic conditions; a good economy increases votes for the incumbent and a poor economy decreases votes for the incumbent.

The effect is small but consistent which indicates that self-interest based on the economy is only part of the story. Other research can show that people are more apt to mobilize for collective action when faced with a very proximal threat to their wellbeing. For example, you see protests over the delayed construction of roads or pollution from environmental deprivation such as galamsey harming the community. While people may act politically to engage an issue in their own community, far fewer will do so in another community especially if it is distant from their home.

The reality of the situation is not what matters instead it is the individual's perception of the situation that leads to political behaviour.

Much of government is very complicated so it can be difficult for individuals to understand whether or not a given policy or piece of legislation is in their interest. People may not understand what is in the legislation such as the Independent Public Prosecutor Bill, which is complex with many features that many are struggling to comprehend the impact it will have.

Thus it is exceptionally difficult for an average person to evaluate. It is impossible to measure self-interested behaviour when individuals can't determine what is in their own interests. Also any attempt to look at self-interest has to make assumptions about what is or is not in the person's interests.

There are many different value systems used by people. The incorrect choice of values will lead to an inability to properly move the progress of the country forward.

So this week has been a bit heavy and much deviation from my usual style and effect, but I am weary of the youth who are not thinking far and seemingly want to outdo each other on the stage of vandalism that they deem can melt them a position in the heart of the President, and those in position, to “position” them in some place where they can, may be, become some persons.

And we the adults are to blame entirely. Where is the philosophy against such views we should be embedding in their heads, not for carrying load, not for praise and worship, but for advancing the intellect and civil concern that we need a better crop of youth to take the future reins of government, not because they are entitled, but because their place in society is yet to be digitally addressed in the world as proof of capacity and achievement against a white race that still knows they have the upper hand.

Mine is a trombone. What is yours? Are you blowing hard enough for them to hear?

Kenya is burning again. Where are the lessons from the past?

Ghana. Aha a yƐ dƐ papa. Alius valde week advenio. Another great week to come.

By Anamoa Casely-Hayford, [email protected]

Sydney Casely-Hayford
Sydney Casely-Hayford, © 2017

The author has 186 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: SydneyCaselyHayford

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