I was wondering which way is correct

As as political leader being friendly to the voter or citizen of country ? something like giving subsidies, free things, etc..

Or Being a reformer towards the voters ? Something like increasing taxes to make economy more stornger or may be cutting subsidies or may be building infrastructure .. etc ..

  • 2
    It's just an observation that the decisions that are good for your country often don't match the decisions that are good for getting [re]elected. – Peteris Mar 31 '14 at 7:26
  • Then what could be the best way ? – Rookie007 Mar 31 '14 at 8:29
  • 2
    @looser - best for whom? and for what goal? The answer depends – user4012 Apr 1 '14 at 14:37
  • I did not get you .. Depends means what ? – Rookie007 Apr 2 '14 at 6:12

It's difficult to say what's "correct" since most countries don't have clear rules on what is supposed to motivate politicians, but rather leave that to the voters.

All the things you listed are different ways to gain voter approval through signaling rather than actual progress. Subsidies and transfers may be an attempt to signal compassion, community, or group loyalty. Tax increases are primarily used to fund transfers and subsidies to favored industries, but they can also be used to punish unpopular groups, such as disliked ethnic groups, disfavored industries, or unpopular regions. Building infrastructure is in reality just subsidies and it also signals the same things as transfer payments. A tax on Wall Street, money for war widows, restrictions on oil extraction, funds for building rural highways, these are all just ways for politicians to signal that they have the right friends and also that they have the right enemies.

Japanese PM Kakuei Tanaka (from the 1970s) famously built up political support by massive pork barrel to his rural prefecture, increasing with his power and prestige. Politicians such as Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond used blatant pork barrel spending in maintaining their domestic power bases. The US city political machines relied on patronage and spending control for over a century to maintain their political clout - with their popularity essentially reduced to "we gave you free money, please vote for us." Pork barrel spending is just the easiest and most obvious way to signal that, "Politician X is looking out for people like you." This includes transfer payments to groups like farmers, solar panel makers, or bridge builders. Giving these groups money is shorthand for supporting what those groups represent.

Conversely, increasing regulations or taxes on disfavored groups is another way to increase voter support from those outside the unpopular group. The target can be certain types of business people, such as bankers, oil drillers, payday lenders, alcohol vendors, etc. It can also just be certain groups of people, such as poor people, black people, gun owners, rural residents, rich people, mentally insane or challenged people, etc. And obviously regional hostility is a popular one, with various regions potentially resented as being aggressive, rich, and dismissive, or as being poor, uneducated, and dependent. In other words, there are lots of ways for people to resent their fellow humans. Sometimes restrictions, regulations, investigations, taxes, and humiliations are a useful tool for politicians to conjure up some support. Almost every mainstream US presidential candidate uses at least a few of these grievances; the better candidates make their accusations in a deft way such that you don't feel hateful for agreeing with a hateful sentiment.

I would say I oppose both the instinct to buy off voters and the instinct the "fix" the country, since both actions tend to revert down to basic in-group versus out-group signaling. The best politicians are those who act without prejudice or arrogance and commit to a non-violent government that seeks neither to bribe the electorate nor to reform people's behavior; in other words, the best politicians don't exist. :P


In democracy, there is ultimately 1 metric of correctness, and that is votes. If you do things that increase your votes, than you can get re-elected. If you fail to get votes, than someone else will get elected.

So yes, the thing that's closest to a "correct" option is to cater to the voters.

Given that, It might seem like giving free things to voters would be the way to go, but it's more complicated than that.

  • In order to give free things away, you have to have those things in the first place. If you get these things from voters, they might resent you for that and not vote for you. If you borrow money to provide for the things, than voters might be concerned about the stability of the government, and not vote for you because of that.
  • Some voters might not like the way you distribute the things. A less wealthy voter might resent you if you give an equal amount of things to a more wealthy voter(because the more wealthy person already has things). The more wealthy might resent you if you give more things to the less wealthy than you give to him/her.
  • 1
    -1 - this completely disregards game theory (or hell, a simple notion of consequences); as well as makes an unwarranted assumption - contrary to Washington, Cincinattus etc... - that "getting reelected" is the end all be all of things. Chamberlain was popular and got reelected. Churchill didn't. I don't think that you can sensibly agree that the former's policy was "more correct" than the latter given the bigger picture. – user4012 Apr 1 '14 at 14:40

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .