Having been doing business (mostly in IT) for a while I have noticed some interesting trends. Particularly the fact that family companies or rather companies where the owners expect to pass the company on to their offspring tend to make better long term decisions. They tend to try and preserve both the company name and make decisions that may be locally suboptimal but are globaly optimal if I may take a term from mathematics.

On the other hand when I look at our politicians (we have a 4 year election cycle for parliament and 6 year for the senate which is much less influential though) they very often make decisions which are very suboptimal long term but will bring fame/money/political points for the politician at the time.

Having worked with a couple of state departments it is increasingly obvious that for most (if not all) people there the interests are very much skewed to covering themselves and getting quick wins without any real long term interest. It's more important to not being seen as having made an error than it is to get a working product. It's also much more important to get some small win now than to get a conceptual and working result for the future.

I have even been point blank told by people in the government "What do I care what happens in 3 or 4 years. It's unlikely I will be here after the next election." Note we're not even talking 8 years counting on one reelection.

But having looked at the problems we face as a society and even globally none of those are solvable within 3 or 4 years. Most have solutions with implementation times of 20-80+ years. Whether it's things like pension systems, health reform, legislation reform (3000 federal criminal laws in the US and I've read that in the Czech republic there are over 2 000 000 pages of laws and regulations which affect us when you include EU wide laws and regulations) or construction planning 4 years are a laughably small amount of time to do anything.

Given the above (which might be wrong of course) I would love to know if there has ever been any research conducted regarding the effect of the length of the election cycle on political decisions?

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    What you need is a good old-fashioned autocracy. (nope, I'm not sarcastic. Dead serious). – user4012 Dec 6 at 21:15
  • @user4012 I have a tendency to agree with that actually. I mean you get the occasional insane person but hereditary autocracies (specifically monarchies as a rule rather than Castro and similar) do have the bonus that as Patek Phillip says in their ads, "You never actually own a Patek Phillipe. You just look after it for the next generation." – DRF Dec 7 at 7:18

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