Lamps: Adopt a long-term view on politics


Joseph Lamps, Columnist

When the 2016 candidates debate their policies, short-term consequences are prioritized over long-term effects in American political discourse.

This is harmful: If one shifts from a short-term view to a long-term view of politics, they will come to support different policies and candidates.

For example, the short-term view indicates that a Donald Trump nomination is better for Democrats because he is more likely than Sen. Marco Rubio to lose the general election.  However, a long-term view recognizes a Trump nomination may not be worth the dangerous long-term consequences it would have on our political system. Another example: A short-term view tells us Sen. Bernie Sanders is not worth supporting because his agenda is too fringe to pass. On the other hand, a long-term view takes into account the influence he would have on the direction of political discourse in our country if elected. Because Sanders is so far left, his agenda is only likely to be enacted in the next few decades if people like him have the opportunity to exert influence over the political climate.

It is best to adopt a long-term view because our country needs to make many significant changes to the political system in order to best serve its people. Marginal change in the near-term is beneficial, but its positive impact pales in comparison to the possibility of large scale changes to our system in the long-term. If we are to be the best country we can be centuries from now, it is unlikely to happen by electing leaders who preserve the status quo while making small changes. Instead, it will happen if we support the propagation of the best ideas even if they will not be enacted in the short-term.

A long-term view is also preferable regarding foreign policy. When considering how to deal with a foreign policy issue, it is beneficial to think about what actions will best help liberal democracy spread throughout authoritarian parts of the world and help reduce extreme poverty in the long-term. This goal is more important than helping any individual country. The long-term stability of a country after any intervention must weigh heavier than short-term effects in any foreign affairs decision. For example, if long-term consequences had been more heavily weighed in the multi-state effort to assist the Libyan rebels in 2011, we would have focused less on deposing Gaddafi as an end in itself. Instead, we would have made sure to choose a plan ensuring Libya wouldn’t become a failed state after Gaddafi was gone.

We must also ignore such principles as pacifism and American exceptionalism and consider the effects in the long-term of a given policy. This does not mean we should, in the name of long-term progress, elect candidates who would likely do damage in the short-term. A prerequisite for major positive change in the long-term is that nothing is damaged in the short-term.

According to polling by NBC, the most important issues to voters in 2016 are the economy, terrorism and healthcare. These are surely important, but when one abandons the short-term view in favor of the long-term view, the importance of issues shifts. In particular, climate change action, campaign finance, electoral reform and foreign policy become the most important issues once one adopts the long-term view. Climate change is the most important issue long-term because it will have disastrous impacts if not not addressed now. Campaign finance and electoral reform are important because they are prerequisites to implementation of many important policies, and foreign policy is important in the long-term because the United States’ success is tied to the success of the rest of the world.

Most of us prioritize the short-term consequences of policies. This needs to change if we want greater progress.

Joseph Lamps is a Weinberg freshman. He can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.