The Right Goal

I have commented to friends and family on my frustration with the general lack of creativity in the arts. I was watching the AMC series “Mad Men.” It is an exception. It really is as good as the critics say it is. It occurred to me that AMC most likely took a different approach to their first dramatic series than the networks do. I am guessing the decision-makers saw a need for quality drama and figured the best way to do that was to get talented writers, directors and actors and let them do their thing. The premise is that if you make a quality product that people want, the money will naturally follow.

In contrast, I see the opposite from network television… and the music industry… and the studio movie industry. Their goal isn’t to create a quality product and serve their customers. Their goal is to make as much money as they can. Working backward from that goal, you look at patterns of success in the past and you come up with formulaic television, predictable movie plots and manufactured music. In short, they forgot to do their job. Their job isn’t to make money. Their job is to facilitate the channel for creative expression. In their misguided goal, they have essentially killed the goose that laid the golden egg. The money goal can work for a while, but typically, in the process you eat your young and doom your future.

So, what does this have to do with politics?

I think many of our elected officials have forgotten what their job is. Their job is to look at current problems and work toward a pragmatic solution to them. Their job is to anticipate potential future threats, like global warming or loose nukes, and to put pragmatic policies in effect to both try to avoid undesirable outcomes and to put plans in place to ameliorate the effect should the threat manifest itself. It is a forward-thinking approach to problem solving. It starts with an assertion of a concern. You then do the research to understand the context of the situation and finally you work toward a plan to resolve the concern. It is in effect the scientific principle.

For some, the goal appears to be getting re-elected, getting campaign donations or making their political opponents look bad. For others, it is trying to co-opt the country through legislation, to adhere to their particular ideology. It’s not about problem solving. If you start with a misguided and selfish goal and work backward, your actions can look out of place – silly, really. That’s how we get national discourse on death panels and socialism. It’s why some jeer when our President, and by some extension, our country gets a notable recognition – deserved or not. It’s why some cheer when the President fails to get something good for our country, like the Olympics in Chicago. They aren’t interested in doing their job. They are interested in attaining their own self-centered goals or proliferating their own ideology.

Elected officials have a constituency – customers really – that deserve to get their tax money’s worth. While ideological and self-centered politics can work for a while, ultimately the elected and their party is held accountable for their efficacy. The party that fails to do their job of problem solving will ultimately fall out of favor, eat their young and doom their future.

I challenge you to judge those who are or could be our elected leaders of either party, using a measure of their tendency toward selfless problem solving over ideology and self-aggrandizement.

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