Thursday, March 26, 2009

Incompetence in democracy

I was puzzled today too: a certain amount of incompetence goes with our electoral system. I asked myself the same question as yesterday about flaming incompetence. I have been following Secretary Geithner on C-Span while he goes from committee to subcommittees in congress. Of course, he has adversaries, of course some representatives or senators are intent on reading their questions and do not listen to his answers, but frankly, there is a significant number of them who visibly do not understand the answers at all. You can see that at the way they try to repeat their question as if Geithner or Bernanke were deaf.
You do not have to know much about government and specially finance to be elected to Washington: it is the idea. It is a very healthy system: I do not want to be governed by an elite of scientists, bankers and philosophers (specially not Aristotle). First, there are just as many racists within Nobel prizes than the rest of us; then there is no more morality: look at the arrest this month of a college professor who planned to rape a five years old girl (he is 62 years old). Third. a lot of the people we elect are extremely competent: they may look stupid in general assembly, but they certainly impress me in most committees.
Except for finance matters. The economy is confusing because it is largely a matter of ideology and because it has its own vocabulary (like normal for a statistician is not normal for a normal person). We all learned quickly what is a toxic asset and a subprime mortgage, but it is more difficult to get through a sentence like this: "The SEC should share the reports that it receives from the funds with the systemic risk regulator, which would then determine whether any hedge funds could pose a systemic threat and should be subjected to the prudential standards outlined above." We get the idea, sort of...who is which?
All I can think of is to tell Mr Geithner and Mr Bernanke: could you please try to have your reports translated in common English without looking paternalistic? It would help you.

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