Politics today is no different than 2700 years ago at the time of the founding of Rome or when Athens was a great City State. Pericles convinced the Citizens of the City of Athens, then a mere village if compared to the megapolis of today, that they should gladly pay high taxes to build the most glorious shrine on the Acropolis to Athena and Diana. Pericles told the Athenians that as Citizens it was their Sacred duty to voluntarily give or pay for this urban project. The first duty of a Citizen is to pay taxes for Polis and thus ensuring the common good. Pericles was a brillant orator and he got his way ensuring his fame for all times by appealing to people’s vanity in a very populist speech.
Rome was no different, Marius the creator of the Roman Legion convinced the Citizens of Rome that all boys and men should serve in the army to defend and protect Rome, they were participating in protecting the homeland. At the age of 12 boys where sent by their parents to learn martial arts daily on the Field of Mars just outside the Pomerium (city limits). This is how you modelled the mind of a good citizen peppering the physical exercise with lessons about the Gods who protect and ensure the greater prosperity and dominance of Rome over the other villages around. Later Julius Caesar would ensure the loyalty of the Legions for his political program by giving all retiring legionnaires a plot of land, tools, slaves and a house. Quite the retirement bonus for soldiers who had protected Rome, he got their undying loyalty which explains the civil war after his assassination by wealthy Senators. The hero of the army and people was brought down by the 1%.
His nephew Octavian Augustus, the first and probably the greatest Emperor of Rome followed the same idea of public policy and populist politics. He had a political program based on glorifying his family by claiming descent from the Gods and a family link to Aeneas the hero of Troy whose mother was Venus (Aphrodite). Augustus wrote the Res Gestae (achievements) which can still be read today on the wall of the monument to Augustus the Ara Pacis, to me the most beautiful monument in the world. One of his achievements to have come to us is Family Law. Augustus in his speeches would always take the common sense approach which resonated with lots of people.
The political idea was to give something the public wants but give it in small doses and keep them wanting more. Promote the idea that you as political leader are progressive and a protector of the interest of the people. Absolute monarchy like France and Russia worked on that idea, the Sovereign was the protector, guardian, defender of the people, he provided good guidance to ensure the well being of his subjects. People were convinced that if anything should happen to the King, their lives would be miserable and uncertain, so that even in harsh times of famine or war, you could not blame the Sovereign, outside forces created your misery.
Recently I read a very good blog entry by sporeflections.wordpress.com who gave a clear and concise medical point of view on what many physicians think of legalizing Marijuana.
Reading it made me think that in Canada our politicians love to pander to the whims of the people if there is a possible vote and money in it. In the case of legalizing marijuana there is also the added political bonus of huge tax revenues without creating a new unpopular tax. Yes there will be a sales tax on the sale of marijuana but given that the public wants the weed, they will gladly pay to ensure gratification. Same way cigarette smokers keep on smoking despite the very high price on a pack of cigarette. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau likes to portray himself has a hip guy, as he says to his critics, he is doing this because we are in 2016 after all, thus portraying the opposition as retrograde and boring. The danger with this approach is the public’s perception that what they want is good and this belief is confirmed in the Chief Magistrate’s approach to Law making. We have the same dilemma with bill C-14 The assisted dying bill, where doctors would be able to help end the suffering of a patient who is facing unbearable suffering at the end of life.
Many people are in favour of this bill, who wants to see a love one suffer when there is no possibility of improvement or saving a life. However the way the bill is written right now offers all manner of restrictions and is not what the Supreme Court allowed in its judgement 6 months ago. Trudeau is pandering to public sentiment, he knows that public opinion might be in favour of medically assisting someone in a terminal phase of life but the public has voiced strong opinions that this help should not be granted to someone under 18 yrs of age or someone who is mentally handicapped. The Supreme Court did not impose any such restrictions in its ruling. The bill is now in committee in the Senate and amendments are coming which the House will have to consider and it appears that PM Trudeau will accept them or so he says. He could then simply state that he is following the advice of the Senate, the amendments may very well go further than what the public is willing to accept. The paradox is that at the moment because there is no Law on assisted dying, it is permissible for a doctor to help out a dying patient without any legal consequences if the request is made, the old Law was struck down as un-Constitutional by the Supreme Court.
The danger of course is that the public is fickle and will go for anything perceived at making life easier not necessarily good. The politicians know that a drunk driver or a driver under the influence of drugs is dangerous, but the responsibility is passed on to another level of government in this case municipal to deal with it. The plus side for the Federal Government is tax money and lots of it. No one can foresee the social problems this will engender and by the time reality strikes, current politicians will be gone from Office. Not exactly a responsible way to govern but then again politics is the Art of the possible and perception is everything.