Representatives not leaders

Press editors have a bad habit of referring to our politically elected representatives as “leaders,” assigning them more importance than they warrant. Personally, I doubly resent this reference because while they don’t deserve the title “leader,” most of them don’t even represent we the people as they profess to do. Unfortunately, they become self-serving and don’t work for the interests of the majority of citizens.

Worse, they often do us great harm. “But Smith, they are elected by the people.” Yes, but usually by a small minority. (And how many people vote for selfish reasons rather than for candidates who understand the proper role of government and who will do the right thing for all citizens?)

Many of these people would be shocked at this criticism. I’m sure they consider themselves decent, law-abiding and honest. But their moral compasses (if they had any) become locked-in on the power of access to other people’s money; corrupting influences from government bureaucrats and selfish interests; and the flattery of having constant public attention.

Our local politicians are lucky to individually get 15 or 20 percent votes. When in office they willfully confiscate our money; spend on wasteful projects; add to the public debt; increase taxes; contribute to corporate welfare; promote “jobs” rather than productive businesses; and build crony relationships with private “insiders” and government bureaucracies.

Two examples of this were featured in a New Year day Wilmington StarNews front page article by Lydia Coutre:

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo told of his priorities for city government in the New Year. He wants to spend the recently approved transportation bond money “as soon as possible,” putting City residents $55 million more in debt. Much of this money will be squandered on the Cross City Trail used by a few bikers and walkers, while many city streets feel to thousands of daily vehicle drivers like they are riding down a dry, rocky creek bed—damaging nerves and vehicles.

Mayor Saffo will “do whatever we can” to provide corporate welfare to the fickle film business in Wilmington—unable to survive without taxpayer subsidies. He wants to divert scarce resources to an inefficient business, and add tax burdens on others to cover that cost.

Saffo and the City Council are desperate to prop up their flagging convention center sucking taxpayer’s money into its frequent emptiness. They hope someone will be foolish enough to locate a hotel on their next door land giveaway—swindling taxpayers and taking business from nearby existing hotels that have probably contributed millions of dollars in taxes to these ungrateful “leaders.”

Saffo has a goal to “bring jobs to the community.” This recycled, overused phrase by politicians assumes that they believe this is the primary function of government. But His Honor never talks about increasing productivity of existing and potential businesses by reducing taxes and regulations, and eliminating urban crime.

Predictably, Saffo’s “most important thing” is cronyism: a “working relationship with all levels of government and the private sector.”

At the New Hanover County government level, Jonathan Barfield, newly elected board chairman and long time local political operative seeking national office, wants to update the always out-of-date bureaucratic “strategic plan” to strongly focus on “economic development and job creation.” Really?

Government planning is another waste of our money. Public planners have far less knowledge (and no interest) about the most valuable and creative use of land than thousands of private decision makers who risk their personal investments in land development.

Rather than focusing on how government can help businesses be more productive (get out of their way), Barfield’s priority is “greater job growth.” Typically, his priorities are backwards: productivity should be the goal; employment is a means to that end. It is productivity of labor and capital that increases wealth and our purchasing power, not simply willy-nilly adding jobs.

Barfield fancies himself a utopian visionary. He wants to get away from “partisan ideology” and to bring a “unified vision to county government.” He says we citizens don’t care about politics; we just want him to “solve the problems.”

Yes, Mr. Barfield that would be nice. There is, however, one fundamental difficulty. Many of the problems we citizens want solved have been caused by you and other political “leaders.”


About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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