I’ve had my first five years of being a management consultant. When I started doing this, I expected to end up in a different place in society — in board rooms — where I could work on grappling with the big issues that politics has been going on about all my life. But strangely enough, Boards of Directors’ agendas often bear no resemblance to what the politicians are talking about.
It’s lazy as can be, but it’s efficient: we pick our representatives and put them in charge of things. By paying taxes, we buy their broad knowledge and interests, their thorough experience, their well maintained networks, their clever analyses and their brilliant ideas. They put these to use to our benefit and the benefit of our country and its position in the world economy, in order to allow us to live as pleasant and carefree lives as possible within the boundaries of public policy. And to make sure our collective income and expenses balance seems reasonably appealing.
Exactly how appealing depends on whether your favourite colour is black or red, but practically speaking, that balance would have led any Dutch family and most Dutch companies to instant bankruptcy: The norm is 3%, and in order to attain this, our minister of finance Dijsselbloem goes around with a wallet full of credit cards. This is also what most debates in our House of Representatives are about, without any solution to the problem being achieved or even achievable that way.
It’s a diversion: as long as we’re talking about Dijsselbloem’s credit cards, we stay away from the truly complicated and controversial economical discussions. Not necessarily controversial within Dutch society, but definitely in the world at large: the world’s impending resources shortage, a consistent mismatch of supply and demand on the job market, a 100% increase in worldwide food consumption during the next few years, areas with decreasing population density (in the Netherlands) and an inefficient, nineteenth-century education system that’s more like a factory assembly line than like a trampoline that enables you to grow into who you want to be. These are the issues being discussed by large companies, but do our politicians hear enough about them?
If our politics were a washing machine, I’d be in a hurry to find the receipt so I could return it to the appliances store immediately. Washing machines are for washing clothes and removing stains. But our politics has been so out of touch in recent years that it doesn’t wash out any stains: it only makes them worse.