Is “Pork-Barrel” Politics good for democracy?
by Shane Goodrich
I am going to answer this question in the context of modern American politics this will avoid any messy definitional issues with the word democracy. If you want to get elected today in America you more or less have to promise stuff. What that stuff is will vary from town to town and state to state but you have to bring the goods. On a small scale this seems logical, we elect politicians to represent us, to take care of our interests. If the local economy is focused on mining we want to make things better for miners, in our case (congressional district 2 in CT) much of the local economy is tied up in military manufacture (in this case submarines) well let’s hope Joe Courtney can up those orders for the subs, we need the jobs!
This sounds all fine and dandy in theory… except when you think about the country as a whole, where are these orders for submarines coming from? Who is paying for this stuff (helpful hint: American taxpayers)? The law that might help miners in one district may cause harm to other occupations in other districts. The country as a whole may not need more submarines (please let’s stop making so many machines of war and destruction) but here in the 2nd district the EB is important. And that is the fundamental tension at play. A senator or congressman has to appease his voter bloc, notice I say voter bloc here as someone like Joe Courtney does not have to pay much attention to the people who did not vote for him, he has to bring the stuff just for those that got him into office. Great democratic representation right there.
As a whole congress has terrible approval ratings, people laugh at things like the bridge to nowhere, but those laughing at these things tend to be outside the purview of the congressman or senator that got the bridge deal done in the first place. If they live outside your district oh well who cares about them. If they did not vote for you, oh well don’t worry about those folks. So is pork barrel politics good for democracy? I think certainly on the whole if you look at America pork barrel spending is not helping us. Those pork projects that are paid for with federal dollars hurt us all. For the moment it’s difficult to see an end to these kind of shenanigans. Perhaps with more education and understanding of the system things might change in the future or perhaps the underlying system needs changing. But for now the pork will keep on coming.
-Shane Goodrich, Co-host & Video Editor of Local Liberty