Since we’re talking about the US election anyway, I should mention something that’s been bothering me for some time. About this time, someone usually does a “world” poll of the US election and finds that the Democratic candidate wins eveywhere (except maybe Israel) and with margins that are like 90-10. Lazy writers take this as proof that the US is a “centre-right” nation out of wack with the world social-democratic consensus. Actually, this is nothing of the kind. Instead, it is that your ideal government for other countries is going to be different than your ideal government for your own.
The most obvious place to start with is nationalism and xenophobia. Let’s say we’re thinking about Guyana, and there is this party that says the Guyanese are the best, and we need to discriminate against non-Guyanese. Well, unless you’re from Guyana, it’d be kind of strange if you agreed with this sentiment!
Similarly, let’s take a look at military spending. There is a party that says that Guyana is in a vulnerable position and needs to ratchet up defence spending. If you’re not from Guyana, why would you want that? Just to further an international arms race? No, clearly, you’re not going to favour increased military spending for Guyana.
Now let’s consider taxes and social spending. Let’s say you’re not a strong ideologue – you think some social spending is worthwhile, but low taxes are also good, and your ideal is to balance the two against each other. Well, where is Guyana in this spectrum? You don’t really know. Guyanese taxes might be annoying, but you don’t have to pay them, cause you’re not Guyanese. Whereas that Guyana should take care of its poor is clear. You’re likely to pick social spending the results of which you can see over lowering taxes which don’t bother you personally.
Finally, let’s tackle environmental policy. There is a party that says environmental regulations are hurting the economy, and caring less about the environment will result in more jobs. While you’d obviously like Guyana to be prosperous rather than not, the issue of Guyanese jobs is somewhat removed from your daily life. Whereas the effects of environmental degradation are often global. And of course you probably don’t want development to ruin worldwide treasures like the plateau “Lost Worlds” or the world’s most beautiful waterfall.
All in all, the government you have picked for Guyana is going to be quite a bit to the left of the one the Guyanese might pick for themselves.
PS: I was writing “Guyanan” instead of “Guyanese” but I happened to be randomly listening to this song, one of the greatest rap songs of all time, and was set straight.