Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Elizabeth Warren - Election vs. Selection

There is a huge debate about what prevents US president Obama from nominating Dr. Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard Law professor to head the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection Agency. Recently Fortune asks the question in an article titled Why not Elizabeth Warren for BCFP? The Warren episode exposes a fundamental political problem of election vs. selection. Political parties prefer voters and population in general to "select" one candidate.

Difference between Selection and Election
Selection refers to making a choice between available alternatives. While, procedurally similar, election refers to choosing amongst ourselves. By crowding out real representatives, career politicians leave the voters with non-options. What remains can hardly be called "election". There is hardly any difference in actions, thought processes or ideas amongst competing candidates. No matter who we select, the outcome is always detrimental to the population. Since conventional mechanism is not available, we should use opportunity to put real people's representatives in a position where they can make a difference. Such opportunity came up twice in recent past. 

The emergence of Paul Volcker as a champion of prudent finance promised to be the first moment. It passed away quietly partly, I presume, because of Volcker's age and responsibility he already shouldered. He was relegated to the role of an advisor who probably no one heeds.

The impending nomination of Elizabeth Warren promises to be the second case. I must confess that I am fan of Prof. Warren and I believe she is a true champion of middle class America. In fact, I believe, her expertise should be used diversely to advantage of common people.

Politicians be warned!
During my school years I often wondered how could Marie Antoinette could be so far removed from reality to ask the people of have cake instead of bread. I am no longer surprised. I think today's politicians are further away from reality than Marie Antoinette ever was. The appointment of Dr. Warren presents the first opportunity to redeem the political apparatus. Remember the fate of Marie Antoinette at the end of the French Revolution.