colourful vs boring politicians

FT columnist Simon Kuper writes that colourful utopian politicians raise high expectations, then typically disappoint. “Boring pragmatic functionaries [in contrast] often make people’s lives better.” Donald Trump is an example of the former type of politician, Angela Markel of the latter.

If Donald Trump is the world’s most colourful politician, Angela Merkel is probably the least. …. She never talks about a “German dream”, and you will not see her campaign under the slogan, “Make Germany great again”.

Even when she suddenly opened Germany’s borders to more than one million people last summer, she phrased this quixotic act in pragmatic language: “Wir schaffen das,” “We can do this.” Germany’s centre has largely held since, despite big advances for the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland in last Sunday’s regional elections. ….

Utopian politicians raise high expectations that they can only disappoint. Every American president campaigns as a great leader who will restore the American dream but then governs in prose. Pretty soon people start complaining that he hasn’t delivered the American dream, but of course he hasn’t: by definition, dreams are not reality.

Utopians … are guided by hallowed old documents rather than by modern best practice. A daft old document such as the Communist Manifesto is particularly damaging but even a wise one such as the American constitution often misleads. For instance, the main reason the US has more than 30,000 gun deaths a year is the second amendment, adopted in 1791.

Simon Kuper, “Why Merkel dreams in black and white“, Financial Times, 19 March 2016 (metered paywall).

There is much more in the full column.

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