Politics is anomalous in terms of modern professions. Today most professionals — especially those whose work has a direct bearing on the well-being of the public — have been corralled towards ascribing to industry-wide codes of ethics and been placed under the stewardship of industry bodies (often at the behest of politicians) that uphold ethical behaviour and enforce professional conduct.
But the modern politician, despite being at the centre of innumerable scandal and failures of ethics, continues to coast along under the radar, without being subjected to demands that better behaviour and higher standards be codified into the profession. Yes, once in public office, politicians are subject to whatever oaths apply, however, a significant amount of the activities undertaken by politicians occurs outside of office and almost always these activities are directed towards attaining office. It is thus strange that these activities are deemed “private” and outside the purview of independent scrutiny, when they have a direct bearing on how and whether a politician will behave ethically and operate at the requisite standard of professionalism once in office.
Where is the King III or the Sarbanes-Oxley for politicians?
Nowhere, that’s where. It occurred to me the other day that few modern professions, save for those deemed illegal, like sex work, have escaped scrutiny in this way. I am curious as to why. What makes the career of a politician special enough to enjoy this privilege? I must admit. I’m drawing blanks, and that’s because no justifiable reason exists for this anomaly. That the anomaly exists points to a critical flaw in how democracy has been conceptualised, as the responsibility for making the laws that govern societies is delegated primarily to a group of people in whose interest it is not to scrutinise and regulate their own collective behaviour. And it’s a shame. This democracy thing sounds really nice on paper otherwise.