Judging by the sudden deluge of Facebook invitations, Student Government elections are here. Yes, that brief campus kerfuffle characterized by the many candidates scurrying across campus in a panic of publicity. These candidates are widely praised — mostly by each other — as noble public servants. But is this really the case?
Does anyone at this university actually believe that these junior politicians are running for the good of the school and the student body? If you listen only to what the candidates and their colleagues in government say in order to win, this delusion can masquerade as reality. It is time to ask why they want to win so badly in the first place. I have a sneaking suspicion that it is not because they care about you or AU.
Though, you won’t hear that from the aspiring officials. Anthony Dunham, a candidate for the SG presidency, writes on his Web site that he is “in your corner for your concerns and issues.” Nirvana Habash, another presidential hopeful, says that she is ready to fight “on behalf of the students.” Controversial and bold positions, indeed.
Don’t let the hackneyed slogans fool you; these minor league mavericks mean business. They have suits, which they wear, and they have copies of Robert’s Rules of Order, which they read, and they are fully prepared to stand in a room for hours on end debating the merits of recycling chewing gum on even-numbered days in odd-numbered months. Not to forget, each new issue of The Eagle would not be complete without another story of SG shenanigans. Students in the government will be the last to admit it, but they don’t actually accomplish much.
Of course, the point of being an office-holder isn’t to achieve anything; the office is the entire goal. It’s good to be the king, after all. People are self-interested, and this does not magically change when these people become politicians. An election does not make an altruist. Worse yet, politics selects for those individuals who are the most driven to acquire power and status (and least fit to have it). If you care about a cause or issue, you have many alternative ways to affect change, but if you want to control people there is no substitute for the command of government office.
Many hide this desire for authority with euphemisms like “ambition” or “dedication,” but the truth remains unchanged. As the economist Donald Boudreaux wrote, “politicians are mortals. But as their greedy lust for power and glory reveals, they are mortals especially flawed.”
This should frighten students and administrators alike, because unfortunately, student government is not just a rack of empty suits. For this academic year, the various politicos within our SG control over half a million dollars. $590,400, to be exact. With pocket change like that, a few irresponsible undergraduates can do a lot of damage. If you agree that politics attracts the power-hungry, and that in order to get power politicians will lie and obfuscate, and that once in power they will be wasteful and officious, why would you ever want to give these people more than half of a million dollars of your money?
This consistent and predictable duplicity must be met with constant vigilance. If the students of this university can understand that politicians are fundamentally undeserving of our trust or admiration, then the business of student politics can finally be approached sensibly.
Despite many candidates’ frequent, hollow calls for “improvement” and “progress,” the most pressing reform needed is an immediate and dramatic reduction in its size and budget. Instead of giving those in government the power to gratify their own egos with our wallets, students can reassume responsibility for themselves. You do not need politicians for change; you need self-control.