Episode 167: The Death of Serious Politics

Political scientist Brian Klaas looks into why we talk so much about politics, but never actually discuss any actual policy. My critique of his analysis is rather predictable.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://privatecitizen.press/episode/167

While I agree with many of the things you’re saying about the press, I think you’re making the same mistake as Mr. Klaas, and missing the point.

Does the press fail at informing people about the things that matter for the wellbeing of society? Arguably, yes. Does the press demostrate bias? Totally. Does the press fail to put up a discussion about policies rather than politics? Absolutely.

Did everybody just switch off their cable news programmes? No. Did the press go out of business because it ceased to be relevant? Nope. Do people on Substack now set the discourse for the bigger part of the society, with only a few percent of the society still interested in what cable news companies have to offer? Not even close.

Yes, journalists like you do have audience; I’m much more interested in your journalism than I am in the state television. But your audience is limited to people who like asking the next question. Most people are not like that.

Most people don’t care.

They care about their hobbies, their spouses, their children, their apartments and houses, their cars. They don’t care about policies or politics, up to the very moment that policies affect them personally, but by that time it’s usually too late.

I bet most people would stop taking part in the political life completely if they were left to their own devices. That would not look nice: someone could start questioning the results of an election where only about 10% of the voters showed up. Consequently, there’s understandable incentive for those involved in politics to make people interested just enough to vote, but not enough to actually want to affect policies. Turning politics into a wrestling show is perhaps not the only way to achieve this, but it works quite well: people develop sympathies for one political figure over another (personal sympathies, of course; about actual policies most people don’t care), people vote, and then mind their own business until the next election.

Of course, populism wins as the result. The greatest thing about modern politics in every system I’m aware of is that, after the ballots are counted, the elected politican doesn’t even have to fulfill the campain promises. Seriously, there’s absolutely no liability in doing exactly opposite to what you promised to be elected! And this is not going to change, because people at large don’t care.

For us few who do care it seems counterintuitive, but people manage to live their lives without caring about policies (or politics, for that matter). Politicans exploit this situation to their benefit. The few people who care provide a counterbalance; sometimes it’s effective, sometimes it isn’t.

Was it not always so? I don’t know, but so far I’ve failed to think up a counterexample. Will it always be so? I don’t know, but so far I’ve failed to think up a way to fix it.


Hello again, and glad that you are back in the saddle.

For me as well, I agree with most of points you raised, but the question is: what next?

As @nekr0z pointed out beautifully: This situation will probably never change, as long as there are regular people and politicians.


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