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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Elections or not, things aren't likely to pick up soon.

This post is pretty much how I see things after the Lebanese parliamentary elections...
I suppose you could say this is going to be another one of those grim-vision articles of mine, but just before make up your mind about whether or not you'll read it, let me clarify that I'll be looking at the issue of 'improvement' from a very specific angle, and not as an overall measure of how well-off people are in Lebanon. So for those who have no idea what I'm talking about, this post is pretty much how I see things after the Lebanese parliamentary elections on June 7th.

The image of modern Lebanon has always been related to that of a 'state of institutions'. This fancy little expressions basically says that the different administrative/judiciary/executive bodies can run independently from each other, and without interference. That, is far from the current reality. And while the opposed political "parties" all go on about building this 'state of institutions', it is only natural to me to think that none of them will actually do anything that will get us any closer to our goal.
Granted, what I just said is nothing new, you can get the same exact response from most people in Lebanon, but here's one side of this problem that many people seem to overlook:

Our entire system is crumbling because of dishonest charity.

I'll explain. As a general rule, and especially a few months prior to the elections, most hopeful politicians are excessively charitable towards their potential electoral base. This phenomenon is so common, that most people just don't see the extents of it. 'Dishonest charity' can be as simple as improving the road conditions in some far away area, just like it could be as hefty as financing a school or a hospital, it all depends on how rich the guy running for parliament is.

You might be thinking 'oh look, the old corruption story, what's new about that ?' at this point, but allow me to further elaborate.

The first problem with this phenomenon, is that it is often overlooked that every dishonest-charitable-penny paid by a hopeful politician is an investment on which he hopes to make good return during the following four years, no matter how rich he is. Vote for he who pays you the most, and you will end up paying him even more on the long run.

The second problem with the 'dishonest charity' phenomenon is far more dangerous, since its effects are reflected for far longer than just the four-year lifetime of parliament. Here's how it goes:
- Very rich politicians invest their money on building schools and hospitals.
- Moderately rich politicians invest their money on improving road conditions and monopolizing the distribution of asphalt
- Less that moderately rich politicians don't exist, and wouldn't have a fighting chance if they did.
- All politicians provide random social services to their electoral base (employment, health care, etc ...)

Once the elections are over, the results are somewhat obvious, and the time comes to actually make some improvements to the 'institutions' of the state.

Tell me, if you had enough invisible leverage over people to guarantee you a seat in office on almost every election and therefore make quite a lot of money, would you let it go for the sake of this image of 'state of institutions' that is bound to make everyone better off on the long run, but has no profitable aspect to you in particular ? I doubt it. And that's why I doubt that things will pick up anytime soon, regardless of the outcome of the elections.
Every time a 'charitable' candidate gets a seat in parliament, you can be certain he will not be pushing for improvement in areas where he has leverage over his voting base, and when you add up the areas of one hundred and twenty eight charitable parliament members, that's a lot of areas, and I'm pretty sure there's very little left to improve, until next elections come along. When they do, you, the average citizen, are still where you were as far as government-sponsored benefits are, and you're pretty much still in need of the same things, which those 'charitable' candidates will be glad to remind you they can provide, all the while making you forget that it is the state that should be providing instead. All, for just your vote.

When you step into a voting booth, remember that as long as you're voting for those who are providing you with services, you are crippling the system and blocking its improvement, and keeping all the cards in the hands of corrupt hopeful politicians.

And next time you get a hopeful politician to put some asphalt on that messed up road that leads to your house, think that maybe you shouldn't vote for him just because he is stepping over what the state should be doing for you.
Remember, it's not charity if he expects your vote in return.

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