tell it as it is
Are we a nation drowning in a culture of consumer politics?
Freebies and instant gratification have become our national habit. They are highly addictive. The more people get, the more people want, and it's never enough. Just like junkies looking for the next hit and the next high, the dose needed is irreversibly increased in direct correlation to the length of addiction. And there are plenty on the other side of the equation - the politicians who will gleefully and readily supply what's necessary to feed this habit until the day they can no longer do so, as the nation spirals down to complete ruin.
That's the day when all the muck will hit the fan. That's the day when we as a nation can no longer afford even the appearance or illusion of democracy. It is the day when repression will descend, as there will be no other options left, and all the addicts will need to be put in rehab.
Theoretically, populist policies are not intrinsically iniquitous. They are a means of income redistribution to the poor or the masses during the transition from oligarchic societies to democracy. However, in reality, populist policies have been used to prevent the masses from being "discontented" and thus shifting their support to the government's political opponents.
As voters relentlessly demand more instant indulgence and have less and less patience for any pain, no matter how insignificant, that politicians might impose on them, the vicious cycle of freebies addiction spins faster and faster. The reactive policy renders impossible any long-term planning that would benefit sustainable economic and political development. It leads to an explosion in public debt and, eventually, in the implosion of the national economy. By that time, the pain is not voluntary or consensual; it's not even an option, but a compulsory evil.
If past is prologue, populist redistribution, in reality, does not lead to real democracy. It does not increase the productive capacity of the poor, i.e. human capital. It only serves as a mechanism to "buy" political support to perpetuate the ruling elites' control of power.
In most cases, the ruling elites decide, in their own best interest, to politically "empower" the masses for the elites' own gain, with no justifiable outcomes. A populist government freely spends public money, never its own, and leaves the public - sometimes for generations thereafter - to pay for the amassed debts. By that time, those in the government are long gone, with a bigger chunk of free public money they have decided to put in their own pockets.
Latin America in the 20th century, and the southern states of the euro zone, like Greece and Portugal, provide for a case in point. There, the ravages of populist policies, and, in numerous cases, corruption, are evident in the abject poverty of the masses; nations that were once at the zenith of human civilisation are now tortured by political instability and social diintegration.
In Thailand, there are many citizens, in every sector, are concerned about the free spending habit of the government. But those who are in a position to speak find their voices of conscience dissipate into thin air. The powers-that-be have their ears completely muffled. Every day, there are more freebies being offered for no good reason. Fiscal discipline means little, if nothing. With rising inflation, every normal household has to think twice, three, four, five and more times about every expense item.
Unfortunately, our government is spending taxpayers' money like there is no tomorrow. Economic inequality may constitute a necessary condition for the existence of populism, but it is never a sufficient one.
One among the key fundamental causes of poverty is low economic growth due to insufficient capital formation and inefficient use of public funds by a government. It is a complete fallacy to "believe" that government should pursue policies of "redistribution" without rest until there is an egalitarian distribution of income and wealth. Basing public policy on populism creates false expectations among the masses that cannot be fulfilled. It deters new private investments and lowers investors' confidence in the country's governance and the government's policy decisions.
Equally hazardous is the political legerdemain needed for the government - local and national - to come up with more populism to outdo its opposition, and even itself. More social division, not less, is a direct result of unstoppable consumer politics, as the expectations created by it cannot be fulfilled.
More street demonstrations can be expected as crashing and incongruous beliefs and outlooks cannot be reconciled. At issue is the role of the state, and at stake is the sacrosanctity of rule of law.
Sadly, the burdens of those capricious populist policies will eventually be borne by the rest of us, who are deluded into supporting the politicians who, by that time, will all be gone, humming our, not their, swan song.
The silver Swan, who living had no Note,
when Death approached, unlocked her silent throat.
Leaning her breast against the reedy shore,
thus sang her first and last, and sang no more:
"Farewell, all joys! O Death, come close mine eyes!
"More Geese than Swans now live, more Fools than Wise."
"The Silver Swan". Orlando Gibbons (1583-1625).