Sorry, Jean-Claude

When Jean-Claude Juncker was still President of the European Commission, I was often beastly to him.

My new hero

I made fun of his drunkenness and variable ability to stay upright, I castigated his euro fanaticism, I found logical faults in his arguments – and I’m now sorry about all that.

For I’ve just come across a spiffy aphorism Jean-Claude made long before his ascent to the top of the EU Olympus. The year was 2007, when he was still finance minister at that European powerhouse, Luxemburg.

Speaking on economic reform, my new friend Jean-Claude made a statement of astonishing wit and depth: “We all know what to do, we just don’t know how to get re-elected after we’ve done it.”

I don’t know if he was fully aware of the profound implications of that statement. But one way or the other, the truth of that aphorism is enough to restore Jean-Claude in my good graces.

Seldom in the history of rhetoric has so much been said in so few words. For that statement lays bare in one fell swoop everything that’s wrong with modern politics and politicians.

The aphorism deserves painstaking exegesis before its meaning is fully grasped. First, one can infer that politicians’ manifest failure to do the right things testifies to a failure of character, not just of intellect.

Surely representative democracy, the predominant political method in the West, depends on elected representatives doing the right things, ideally every time.

Granted, some politicians may not know what the right things are, in which case their failure to do them is understandable, if not necessarily forgivable. Yet my new friend stipulates this isn’t the case: “We all know what to do…”.

Then why don’t they do it? Because, explains Jean-Claude, doing the right things would scupper a politician’s chances of staying in power. Hence one infers that politicians neglect bono publico for their own bono, and the public be damned.

This to me constitutes betrayal of trust and an appalling failure of character. Elected representatives may be in a position to demand that thousands of young people sacrifice their lives for their country. Yet they themselves refuse to sacrifice even their careers. I smell a certain deficit of moral legitimacy there.

We can proceed from the specific to the general and look at wider implications. For, when a political system fails to elevate to power those who can selflessly work towards public good, there’s something wrong with the system, not just the individuals.

Such a situation means that voters aren’t fit to vote. After all, our unchecked democracy run riot effectively involves everybody in the business of government. The only qualification necessary is that of age, which gets younger and younger.

More sweeping generalisations are in order. Such as that those who know what the right things are and are capable of doing them are unlikely to get elected.

Moreover – and this is the most damning part of Juncker’s epigram – if politicians decide to act out of character and actually do the right things, the voting public will throw them out at the next election.

That means the voting public emphatically doesn’t want the right things done, and it will punish mercilessly those who disobey its diktat. The question is, why?

Surely people would stand to benefit from sage government? Surely a government that doesn’t do what it knows is right hurts everybody? Here we are entering the inner circles of politics, and they are vicious.

The voting masses by definition possess no intellectual tools to decide what the right things are. The business of government is more intricate than just about any other, involving as it does at least some understanding of such disciplines as political science, economics, history, philosophy, jurisprudence, rhetoric, logic and so forth.

Since no electorate in the world can boast such collective understanding, they all differ from a herd of livestock only on physiological and, if you will, theological technicalities, not in their ability to cast a vote intelligently and responsibly.

Public education everywhere in the West and certainly in Britain provides no help. The disciplines mentioned above are taught badly or, typically, not at all. On the contrary, our educators actively corrupt their pupils by pumping their heads full of idiotic, subversive and immoral rubbish.

British pupils are taught how to use condoms, not their heads. At an age when youngsters of yore still thought of such matters in terms of storks and cabbage patches, today’s lot are taught advanced sexual techniques and the amoral nature of sex and gender-bending. Considering that many graduates of our comprehensive schools can’t even read properly, one gets the distinct impression they are taught nothing else.

It gets worse. For our young are raised in a culture of despair, with the future uncertain or – given the canonical status of the global warming hoax – nonexistent. Therefore, since most of them are also taught atheism, they can’t conceive of a good greater than their own immediate benefit.

This combination of moral and intellectual shabbiness makes them vulnerable to demagogic slogans – and unreceptive to reasoned arguments. That’s why politicians who wish to get elected and re-elected have to communicate with the electorate in five-second soundbites, each containing a simple solution to what really is a complicated problem.

Alas, complicated problems hardly ever lend themselves to simple solutions. They require serious thought and reasoned arguments. Unfortunately, as Swift once wrote (I’m quoting from memory), you can’t reason people out of something they didn’t reason into.

Hence, a politician proposing a serious, rational policy will only succeed in scaring away voters weaned on a steady diet of simplistically primitive messages. Such a politician had better start retraining for a different career.

This hidden depth of Juncker’s aphorism makes me feel sorry about all my past scathing attacks on his person. Well done, Jean-Claude, didn’t know you had it in you.

8 thoughts on “Sorry, Jean-Claude”

  1. True, all that. But it does not tell us how to arrange things so that politicians can do right and still be re-elected. That’s the key conundrum not just of modern times. Do you have an answer, Aleksander?

    1. My favourite reply to the ‘not just of modern times’ is an invitation to compare the foreign ministers who decided the post-Napoleonic future of Europe at the 1815 Congress of Vienna (Talleyrand, Metternich, Castlereagh, Nesselrode) with their today’s counterparts. As to the answer, I’ve written several books on the subject. Doing it in a sentence or two is a trick I leave for our politicians.

      1. ” I’ve written several books on the subject. ”

        That is dodging the question. If you have an answer, please put it briefly or in outline, so that we may all benefit.

        1. I’m not dodging anything. I’m only saying that your question can’t be answered in this format. Real thought doesn’t lend itself to slogans. In this case, a proper answer would have to come in the form of a cogent political theory involving multiple disciplines. I’d say about 300 pages would be about the shortest.

  2. “British pupils are taught how to use condoms, not their heads.”

    During the demonstration of how to use the condom do they use a banana or a cucumber as a prop?

  3. I agree with all of that except for the bit where, I feel, you have been too forgiving of Juncker. In my book, he would have needed to do something about his perceptive observation in order to obtain absolution.

    I’ve recently purchased your book “Democracy as a Neocon Trick” having just finished your “How the West was Lost” (excellent, thank you). I hope it will shed some light on this conundrum we find ourselves in.

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