An explanation for the failings in Canberra

Can science explain it?

An explanation for the failings in Canberra

There has been a pronounced disintegration of politics in recent years. Rudd’s Labor Party, which was elected into power in 2007, reverted leadership to Julia Gillard before Rudd resumed his position three years later. In August 2018, the Liberal government of the day ignored the mistakes made by the former Labor government, overthrowing the PM Tony Abbott for Malcolm Turnbull, until in-party turmoil led to a vote and change of leader. Now Scott Morrison sits in the doomed chair or leader.

The question that arises from these circumstances remains, why are politicians making these seemingly doomed decisions? Why haven’t they learnt from the mistakes of the past?

We can never be totally sure, but there are some sound theories kicking around that are bedded in science that may provide an explanation.

Social media and the power of technology that sits in everyone’s pocket means that news and controversy is immediate. Any press conference, any interview or any remark can be filmed or translated onto social media within seconds. Politics has transformed almost into a sport, with spectators watching eagerly as live comments are relayed from Canberra to our smart devices. Comments can’t be covered up or put in context, they are transferred out to the ether instantly.

This creates an intense environment for our politicians and leaders around the world. Every word has to be carefully chosen. Any mistakes can become fatal within minutes. Science would direct this atmosphere to placing parliamentarians into a constant state of ‘fight or flight’, with stress levels insurmountable to suppress and balance. Under this pressure, bad decisions are made and the results can lead to party members stabbing their leader in the back in one way, shape or form.

Another interesting aspect of Canberra that can be applied from science is the phenomena of ‘groupthink’ and ‘wisdom in crowds’. An article from the Economist describes ‘groupthink’ as the circumstance where critics are reluctant to point out a plan’s defects for fear of being ostracised by the group…. ‘wisdom of crowds’ describes the tendency for members of groups to gravitate towards the views of the majority of the herd, preferring a safer options and avoiding looking foolish by deviating.

Do these concepts account for the bad decisions that have been made by the Labor and Liberal party? Perhaps… nonetheless it’s crucial they learn from their mistakes and strive for stability. Otherwise, Canberra and our democratic system can only remain stagnant and unprofitable.

Sean spoke about these concepts and more in the Breakfast Program, and you can catch up with that at the podcast link below.


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