Limitation #8: Political Parties do not Plan Well for the Future
Political parties are mostly motivated by the timing of the next election, not the effects of their decision even one generation from now. Their passport to power, or perhaps survival, depends on how they view their legislative, executive, and media actions in the light of the next election. If a particular action seems likely to enhance the electoral success of a political party, the party will take that action. If the action is a hindrance, the party will avoid it. Whether that action is for the betterment of society in the future is irrelevant to the needs of the political party today.
The short-term effects often set the pace; long-term effects are for the next generation of politicians to deal with. Unfortunately, many of society’s ills require solutions that will take a generation or two to see positive results. If the solutions to these problems cannot provide any benefits to the parties by the next election, it is very unlikely that parties will make them part of their platform.
To be fair to the western democratic model, it has made decisions for its citizens that had short-term pain for long-term gain. Public education for children of all economic backgrounds, abolishment of racial segregation, and environmental laws forcing industries to emit less pollution are all good examples of a society making the right long-term choices. But these changes were not initiated by elected politicians themselves, but by ordinary people educating other people and then organizing themselves to exert pressure on these politicians to make such changes. In essence, the people “led” the nation, not the politicians.
To some political pundits, this kind of democracy may be good and normal. Unlike other forms of governance “that have been tried from time to time,” citizens in western democracies can organize themselves to make changes for the betterment of their society.
But making changes in this way often takes decades to effect and requires an immense amount of resources from the citizenry itself. Would it not be better for governments to do the right thing at the right time — instead of waiting for a certain amount of public pressure to coerce it?