Monday, March 28, 2011

“Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”– Albert Einstein

I was just thinking about the first 2 days of this election campaign and all the lies, half-truths, and innuendo spouting from the mouths of the various leaders and candidates.

A common metaphor for running a country is that it’s not unlike running a large business. You have employees and customers (taxpayers), a revenue stream (taxes), a product (services), and Cabinet is the executive team.

To take the metaphor a step further, an election campaign then becomes like a new stock offering where the executive branch trot out the financial status of the company, their future plans, and other details intended to entice investors (voters) into the fold.

But that’s where any semblance of similarity ends.

Imagine the CEO of a major corporation standing in front of shareholders and saying things that he knows to be untrue a major financial change in the business. Or how about the CFO intentionally misleading investors over several fiscal periods, and refusing to provide line item details. Or what if the COO knowingly understated the costs of a major departmental expansion? If they were lucky they’d only be fired.

However that kind of lying, deceit, obfuscation, and downright unethical behaviour have become de rigeur for our elected representatives. And instead of holding them to account as we would business people (in which case they’d all soon find themselves roomies with Bernie Eberts or Conrad Black) we give them a free pass.  We have come to expect them to lie. We have come to expect them to cheat. We have come to expect them to be ethically challenged. And they do not disappoint.

This could all be passed off with a cynical observation that you’ve got to tell the public what they want to hear (and there’s some truth to that), but at the end of the day how can these men and women sit down at a dinner table across from their families and be proud of their day’s labours? “Yes I lied on national TV today son, and let me tell you it felt damn good!”

Sadly, it seems that’s exactly the kind of person a significant portion of the population deems most suited to the highest offices of the land.

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