The Fallacy of Politics

Paul will readily admit his actions are also selfish. Ask him at [email protected].

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The future of ASUC is uncertain, as if that's anything to be surprised about. With the elections having come to a completion, we who are served by ASUC are anxiously awaiting the news of whom our student body elected officials will be.

Well, we should be awaiting the news, and more generally, we should care about ASUC. It's set up to be a student government that matters, one that should serve as a guide to other independent student governments at other universities.

With the UC Berkeley student body-arguably the greatest of any university-as its breeding ground, all the pieces should fall into place to make ASUC an efficient and service-based student government.

But for some reason, it's not. In fact, it's safe to make the prediction that ASUC's next class of elected officials will successfully sustain the level of mediocrity and partisanship synonymous with ASUC itself. The underlying cause of the grand ASUC problem is politics.

Yet it's not necessarily partisanship fueling the politicking of ASUC. It's selfishness, which is the primary quality of all politics. Unfortunately, ASUC isn't exempt from this.

Political science Professor Robert Price, in the comparative politics class he taught last year, put forth the idea that politics is the process whereby resources are allocated for a collectivity.

Taking that definition on face value and applying it to ASUC and other political bodies, a politician should by nature be altruistic. The masses are the collectivity, and the politician is the one advocating the allocation of scarce resources for the collectivity. Politicking is set up be an act of service.

But from the experiences of the collectivity (whether it be American citizens or the UC Berkeley student body under ASUC), which often falls victim to the selfishness of politicians, service is far from the primary motivator of elected officials.

So why is ASUC politics so vicious? Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger says, "University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small."

Why would comparatively irrelevant stakes lead to the viciousness of university politics? The stakes in ASUC primarily fall within funding for student groups and putting on programs for the UC Berkeley student body. Giving a few hundred dollars to several student groups and putting on culture shows should not foster a vicious working environment.

That brings us back to the definition of politics as being the process of resource allocation for a collectivity. In ASUC, since the stakes are so small, the resources are the elected officials' own future political careers and the collectivity is the group of ASUC officials themselves. In essence, many of the elected officials are competing for resources, in the forms of political clout and votes in hopes of successful political careers for themselves. Well, that's how I see it, anyway.

So are all politicians evil only because their politicking is motivated primarily by selfishness? No, of course not. Deeming every act motivated by selfishness evil would cause us to point our fingers at all actions people undertake.

It's actually quite disillusioning when you think about it. Even what seem like the most selfless acts, such as giving a homeless person some money, are based on selfishness. Aren't you trying to make yourself feel better and appease feelings of guilt when undertaking such an act? Ultimately, all actions come down to how they serve oneself.

Unfortunately for us, it's almost impossible for ASUC to change its political ways. As long as the stakes are so small, thereby fueling the selfishness of the elected officials (which is not necessarily an evil thing), little can be done by our student government. If they were bickering about more important issues, their mudslinging would seem necessary, masking selfishness. But the issues they tackle in reality aren't worth the cutthroat politics.

As for next year, just don't expect a great deal from ASUC.


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