Public: Politics: Politician: Qualification
Compulsory VSO For Politicians   (+5, -1)  [vote for, against]
3rd World Experience for our decision makers.

In western countries it is becoming increasingly obvious that the decisions made by our governments affect millions of people around the world who are not their constituents.

Our politicians are often selected upon their skills and experiences within their home country, but they often have little experience of life outside of their nation. I propose that within their first term of service as MPs, TDs or congressmen etc. they serve a compulsorary amount of time volunteering overseas in underpriveledged areas of the globe.

Although this isn't going to result in a Damascus like conversion of our future leaders, it may enforce the global responsibilities which they have.

A sixth month sabatical for junior members of the house wouldn't be hugely destructive to the parliamentary calendar, especially considering the attendance records of some parties.
-- etherman, Aug 27 2004

VSO - Voluntary Service Overseas
[jutta, Jan 15 2006]

I like the sentiment but have you considered the potentially huge destructive influence our politicians could have on these third world countries *during* their VSO stint? Joking aside, I don't think ignorance of the consequences of their action is the root cause of the problem. Democracy being what it is, the best way to cause politicians to take into account the global consequences of their actions would be for the voting populace actually to care about them - and to vote accordingly.

American politicians' reluctance to sign up to kyoto (sp?) and the international court of human rights (etc) and to act unilaterally in opposition to the will of the U.N. suggest that they have no such fear of public sanction.
-- dobtabulous, Aug 27 2004

Agreed, but I think compulsorary VSO for the US electorate may be pushing things! I'm not proposing this as a way to solve the worlds problems, but it may be a way if opening our politicians minds a little to the plight of ohter nations in their sphere of influence.

Also, as you jokingly point out, its imporatnat to clarify that their voluntary work would be manual or low grade labour, I'm not suggesting Republican congressman taking over the Sudanese Chancellory for 6 months!! although...
-- etherman, Aug 27 2004

I thought maybe it was cognac.
-- bristolz, Aug 27 2004

VSO should be compulsory for everyone in the west. Rather than national service, youngsters ought to be sent out into the world to gain some worthwhile experience and do some good while they're out there. So with this slight(!) condition on how this idea is implemented I give it the [+]
-- zen_tom, Aug 27 2004

I don't want my newly elected MP, who is still very much wet behind the ears, sloping off to the other side of the world when (s)he could be learning the nuances of the job and/or furthering the interests of the constituents. Why should this experience be limited to the third world? Let me take you by the hand, etherman, and lead you through the streets of Possil, I will show you something that will make you change your mind.

Furthermore, and perhaps slightly less relatedly, access to decent civil service positions in Whitehall require the sort of steroid enhanced CVs that can only be acheived with either (a) lies or (b) spending time teaching 6 year old AIDs sufferers to read.
-- calum, Aug 27 2004

"Congratulations on your election to the Senate, Senator Smith. Now, here are your plane tickets to Africa . . . "

How 'bout ya just don't vote for xenophobic idiots? [-]
-- contracts, Aug 27 2004

Screw that. Just make them spend time in the "low rent" areas of washington DC. Save money on plane tickets, and much more relevant.
-- GutPunchLullabies, Aug 27 2004

And when they get back, they say to themselves, "What can I do to never go back there?"
-- yabba do yabba dabba, Aug 27 2004

I thought VSO referred to vasectomies for a second, and thought this was an awesome idea. While I'm slightly less excited about its actual meaning it's still good.
-- Voltmeter, Aug 27 2004

The better idea: Compulsory VSOs for all citizens, right out of high school (thanks for beating me to it by a few hours, [zen_tom]).

-- shapu, Aug 27 2004

This is a pretty uninformed rant, and we've had multiple flavors of this. As a "class", politicians are much more likely to be informed about the world outside their country and better traveled than their constituents.

And the reverse is already true -- i.e. much of the political classes throughout the world have the opportunity to live and be educated in the West.

And in terms of environmental impact, figure out which Western politician is going to be dictating to Brazil to cut export of wood to China.
-- theircompetitor, Aug 27 2004

Sorry, xenophobic idiots are all we have to offer at the moment. Check back in 12 years.
-- RayfordSteele, Aug 29 2004

Yes, why can't our politicians be more cosmopolitan like the French, who are so advanced that they prohibit scarves and yarmulkas to school children.

Or well rounded enough so that they could understand that sometimes you just have to let one of those Balkan blood-lettings work itself out?

Or versed well enough in foreign languages to know that calling Jews blood sucking monkeys in a textbook is just a term of endearment?

Yes -- we definitely need more foreign experience.
-- theircompetitor, Aug 29 2004

I don't think that [tc]'s comment really tells us anything regarding how he feels about the French. It's just a comment on a current political situation over there, set up along side the conception many Americans have that the French are cosmopolitan just because they are French.

And did they really invent democracy [UB]? Wasn't that pretty well baked before they got hold of it?

I think VSO is a good idea, but doing it for the wrong reasons isn't. When people spend their time helping people because they have to, I think they can end up pretty calloused to the root causes of problems, but feeling self righteous for having done something. And a person who doesn't really care about the problems of others, but does feel self righteous about having helped is more likely to cause more cultural harm then good.

The world (apparently) thinks we Americans are ignorant, arrogant, loutish boors already. Better to leave our provincial politicians here and have the world think so, than to send those politicians overseas and remove all doubt! (With apologies to Mr. Twain)
-- Ichthus, Aug 29 2004

Do you think that that is why? But, why does Australia sometime participate? Refresher courses?
-- bristolz, Aug 30 2004

Nah, the Australians just get bored easily.
-- shapu, Aug 30 2004

[UB] – I'm sure that Iceland, in fact, invented democracy.
-- Detly, Aug 30 2004

[ub] //Iceland has a democratic system of government but it is not the same Republican model enjoyed by the bulk of the world's population.//

What is it then? I think you mean "had" rather that "has". In the old times the Icelandic parliament was a regular meeting of rich landowners accompanied by their serfs who would settle arguments and disputes more or less amicably (quite frequently much less than amicably).

Now Iceland has a true parliamentary democracy, although having the longest serving current European leader, it does sometimes appear to be David Oddson's personal fiefdom.
-- Gordon Comstock, Aug 30 2004

In UK private schools, most pupils are encouraged to take a year out travelling before university in order to find out more about the world and get a more 'rounded' education. As a result, the UK has a fairly well travelled parliament (yes, the majority of our politicians have been to private schools) which has until recently led to well informed foreign policy. Not necessarily benevolent, but well informed. One positive facet of our elitist system of government.

For players on the world stage (this includes just about *all* US politicians, due to the disproportionate influence of the US), travel should be imperative. The VSO idea would also give a good reality check as to what is *really* happening on the ground.

This can only get a [+].
-- wagster, Aug 30 2004

[-] Bah. Globalists are no better than communists.
-- ldischler, Aug 30 2004

[Wagster] //to take a year out travelling before university in order to find out more about the world and get a more 'rounded' education//

I would fundamentally disagree that those who travel (unless there is some purposeful work involved) get a 'rounded' education at all.

I'd recommend "Are you Experienced?" by William Sutcliffe. Possibly one of the funniest books I've ever read, its serious underlying theme is that travelling for the sake of it teaches you nothing about the country except about travelling in it.

I'm also suspicious of (especially) young people doing VSO. Of friends who have done it, many on reflection say that although they had a fantastic experience they really acheived nothing. This might be all well and good for them, but is it worth the costs imposed on the host country? It all smacks of educating rich northern kids at the expense of the poor south.

Mind you some of these friends, having been given a taste for it, have gone on to real development work.

Having said that, I believe that now VSO is much more professionally run and I know of several development projects where highly skilled (not just out of school/college) VSO volunteers have been the mainstay of the operation. But aspiring politicos? I don't think so.
-- Gordon Comstock, Aug 30 2004

UB, thanks, I was missing our chats :)

I thought bloody revolutions and political purges were the major French political inventions. Oh yes, and new, more efficient means of execution so that the executioner can keep up.

My main point is still in my first annotation, and I haven't seen any response to it. The "look at these magnificent savages" bit has gotten old to me.
-- theircompetitor, Aug 30 2004

Gordon, I have many well travelled friends and recognise the problem. Travelling through and living in another country are vastly different, and even then you only take back what you look for.

To my knowledge, VSO only accepts specific professionals with three years experience of their trade for a minimum posting of one year - this why it gets things done. Unfortunately it would probably also rule out all politicians.

But here's [etherman]'s problem: the most powerful man in the world took office with only two weeks experience of anywhere outside the US. He is also a foreign policy liability. His idea may not be a panacea, or even workable using VSO as a placement organisation, but it's surely a step in the right direction? That's why I croissanted it.
-- wagster, Aug 30 2004

wagster: democracy means that we elect our leaders, warts and all. If were to go by "most qualified", history professors would be running the world, god help us
-- theircompetitor, Aug 30 2004

[tc] - who's this "we"? In the US, the president is generally elected by corporations who pour money into their election funds, may the biggest fund win. The UK does not allow this practice, so elections are controlled largely by our 'free' press. Mostly owned by an Australian guy. Democracy isn't doing too well right now.

And no, I don't have any better ideas, sorry.
-- wagster, Aug 30 2004

Steve, you've hit on a very real problem within democracies. Pretty much everyone involved with the election process has the ability to influence outcomes, even in a legitimate way. We saw that with the Florida recounts in the US, when governor Jeb Bush became involved with deciding when to stop the recounts. The UK in common with the US elects goverments using the Single Member District system instead of Proportional Representation. Who decides this? The two main parties who benefit most from this. The Liberals (important but unelectable third party) are kept marginalised by this system. Our current government gave an election pledge to switch to PR, but of course won't, as it isn't really in it's interest, giving ground to the Liberals.
-- wagster, Aug 30 2004

wagster -- elections are not about getting the best to govern us. If that was the goal we could just simply recruit the top of graduating classes and pay politicians larger salaries -- now there's an idea.

Elections are about getting the consent of the governed. If the governed are swayed by money spent on ads or by editorial slant or by a pretty face, so what? That's what the governed consented to -- why do they deserve better?
-- theircompetitor, Aug 30 2004

When I said invented, I meant that they were the first to use a recognisably similar implementation to our own. I think so, anyway.
-- Detly, Aug 30 2004

I said as a class, and I think it's not a hard proposition to defend that most people in Washington DC, for instance, are more cosmopolitan then those in West Virginia.
-- theircompetitor, Aug 31 2004

Have you checked how many doctor's children are doctors?
-- theircompetitor, Aug 31 2004

A small quibble with the posted idea is the empty seat in the elected office while the electee does his service. It could be handled by staggering election and inauguration times, but I suggest requiring the service as a prerequisite to getting on the ballot to begin with.
-- bpilot, Aug 31 2004

[tc] - [Buddha] is right here, we deserve better. However there is no arguing that without the consent of the electorate, power cannot be legitimate. Maybe what we deserve is a better method of choosing our leaders, or at least we could have access to more information on them when we're choosing (WIBNI!).

Anyway, this is a little OT. [etherman] is addressing a growing problem in world politics. As the world grows smaller, we are increasingly affected by the goverments of countries we do not live in and cannot elect. The US is the obvious case in point - the Iraqi people did not elect Saddam and mostly did not want him. Neither did they elect Bush who has effectively run their country for the last year. The mismanagement of the Japanese economy affected literally hundreds of countries and millions of people who had no say in the matter. The rising power of China will most likely lead to it having influence on a par with the US in the next century, and not even the Chinese have consented to communist rule there. The UK electorate have not consented to Republican government, yet under Blair, our foreign policy is Republican foreign policy. As national boundaries blur, the nation-state governmental system is slowly becoming less legitimate - at some point we will need to start thinking more globally.
-- wagster, Aug 31 2004

I was aware of the contradiction in the title. And as <ichthus> rightly points out it is possibly a dangerous thing to force people to take on a voluntary scheme. However, their doesn't seem any other way to have a positive outcome out of this idea. The travel which private school students are asked to take usually involves a back packing pub crawl around the former colonies. This is very differnet to a VSO operation.

Also I entirely agree that there are problems of poverty in the home countries of every western politician... so by all means make them work in a needle exchange/soup kitchen whatever... but this idea is about western politicians learning about the influence of the west on less developed countries. For good and bad. It is already the resonsibility of a politician to deal with the issues affecting his constituency. I just want to show them that their influence doesn't end with their own nation.
-- etherman, Aug 31 2004

[etherman] - my exact point in my last post. Doing something about it is somewhat harder, but a good plan nonetheless. More croissants deserved.
-- wagster, Aug 31 2004

I think David Blunkett might vote for this one at the mo. 'Get me to the Sudan asap!!'
-- etherman, Dec 21 2004

//Does 2 weeks in another country count as more experienced, travelled and cosmopolitan?//

If that is a 3rd world coutry and not some beach somewhere then yes, it would make them more 'experienced' than the average punter.

I'm not saying they are all gonna turn into Bob Geldof, but yes looking into a starving persons face, seeing inside a Nike sweat shop, watching small children hiking 3 miles every day for dirty drinking water might make you think twice when the next vote on foreign aid/debt, or foreign arms supply comes around.
-- etherman, Dec 21 2004

And a democratic government, no civil war, a welfare programme etc.
-- etherman, Dec 21 2004

I scanned this page for five seconds. It's about television.
-- mensmaximus, Dec 21 2004

No, I think you were scanning your television by mistake. This has NOTHING to do with television. Try taking slightly longer and you may be able to contribute something that doesn't make you look stupid.

Oh and welcome to the HB by the way.
-- etherman, Dec 21 2004

I just realized that [Compulsory VSO For Politicians ] could be shortened to VSOP, or Very Superior Old Pale........mmmmmmm, thirsty now.
-- normzone, Dec 22 2004

I don't think we need compulsory alcohol for Politicians. It usually comes with the job anyway.
-- etherman, Dec 29 2004

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