Politics > Determining Political Choice > Individuals in Politics: CL3 > Influences on Officials

Influences on Officials

Detailed diagram of how the presence of individuals with obligations and interests in politics interact with the lower-level political institutions.

Individuals in powerful offices (L3) interact dynamically with the rule of law (L2) and with group power struggles (L1). In each case, there is the potential for both positive-beneficial and negative-harmful influences.

Influences linked to Private Interests

ClosedConformity or Mendacity

Private interests, being so independent of social needs, are a prime focus for the rule of law in society. The proper operation of this Channel is Conformity: private interests should conform to both the letter and the spirit of the law. Laws should also recognize that officials need to be self-reliant and require a private life with pursuit of their own personal interests.

Flagrant misrule and law-breaking does occur, but devious circumvention of the laws, especially those related to money and re-election, is far more common. Officials devise complex arrangements that may barely observe the letter and certainly not the spirit of the law.  When asked about such irregularities, denials and rebuttals are common—the political power-centred style is: «never explain, never admit, and always accuse your exposer of ulterior motives».

It is hard to capture in a single term the complex mix of dishonesty, deception, subterfuge, distraction, distortion, fabrication and semi-persuasive half-truths that characterize many politicians. Mendacity will have to suffice.

ClosedPressure or Discredit

Officialsself-interest (CL3S) is bound up tightly with the struggles of their group (CL1B). For politicians that primarily means their political party.

Pressure characterizes this Channel at the best of times. Politicians experience pressures from their party to toe the line or else be de-selected next time around. In turn, politicians put pressure on their groups to provide backing, to canvas votes, and to raise funds.

Other powerful, but non-political groups, also try to latch on to the private interests of Officials. By providing favours or financial contributions to campaigns, they expect the person to use their position to help them in some way when in office. The effect here is similar to bribery.

When things go wrong: an Official brings Discredit on himself, and sometimes on the party. Groups found to bring improper Pressure to bear may also suffer reputational damage.

Influences linked to Defined Obligations

ClosedConstraint or Sociopathy

Defined obligations of Officials (CL3S) require submission to the rule of law(CL2B), which usually puts constraints on how functions are to be discharged, and on what may and may not be done.  Conversely some obligations of the Officials, e.g. for national security or to protect trading interests, may constrain the operation or application of the rule of law in particular cases. So the channel is named: Constraint.

However, Government Officials have been known to pass laws or executive orders that very directly serve their own interests. The higher the Official, the more likely. Thaksin acted in this way repeatedly when Prime Minister in Thailand. US Presidents and their close officials commit crimes regularly. They then involve officials further in defending what they have done. If, occasionally, a prosecution succeeds, there is normally a rapid pardon by the next President.

It is difficult to know how to label this anti-social activity: it is probably not correct to call it criminality, but given the arrogant disregard of legalities, the abuse of privilege, the betrayal of trust, and damage to people individually &/or en masse, perhaps Sociopathy captures the spirit.

ClosedAttention or Neglect

The brute power structure of society operating at CL1B must and will shape how obligations are interpreted and applied. Officials must pay close and constant Attention to the significant organized groups in society, their strengths, their struggles and their aspirations. Officials in the various groups, for their part, must also pay careful attention to the work of government Officials, to any newly created governmental bodies and regulatory roles, and to competitor groups and their Officials.

If Officials lose their focus, then decisions are likely to result that create anger in one or more powerful groups. It is then only a matter of time—often a very short time—before this anger is converted into action to demonstrate that the interests of the group should not be taken lightly. Such demonstrations of power are socially disruptive and aim to humiliate the people involved, and possibly the whole government.

The reverse influence also holds: powerful groups who fail to attend to Officials acting in the course of their duty will become disadvantaged at some point.  The dysfunction here is Neglect.

Originally posted: July 2009; Last updated: 2 June 2014

All posted material is part of a scientific project and should be regarded as provisional. Visitors are encouraged to think through the topics and propositions for themselves. Copyright © Warren Kinston 2009-2016.
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