Charlie Teljeur: You get what you pay for
|By Charlie Teljeur - Contributing Writer | December 14, 2017|
A few years back, a friend and I were having a political discussion and he posed the question, “why isn’t the president of the United States paid handsomely,” the thinking bringing to light many factors, the basic one being that if you offer enough money, you would hypothetically get the best candidate possible whether it’s the president of the United States or a local councillor.
We, of course, know that money alone isn’t what makes a good public servant but this did present some intriguing theories. First off, you could persuade great thinkers into the public sector if they knew, to put it bluntly, the money was comparable. Secondly, as ironic as it sounds, you would likely have more honesty in politics. Politicians would simply be more difficult to corrupt. This is the exact point Arnold Schwarzenegger made while running for California governor way back when.
While I’m not naive enough to believe that money and money alone is enough to create a “good” politician, the basic fact remains that you get what you pay for.
Recently, I heard these types of discussions in regards to the money made or not made for positions like mayor and councillor locally. In effect, local politicians are paid what would amount to part-time to low full-time wages. That part we can all agree on. The question that remains is whether we agree that someone doing a job like they do deserves to be paid better.
I know that the knee-jerk reaction to this question is a resounding ‘hell no’. There is such a mistrust and lack of respect for public servants and for the most part it’s probably justified but therein lies the paradox. If we don’t pay a politician enough to demand the best, then we’ll never get the best because we don’t pay enough. T
he question you need to ask yourself is, given the salary and the public scrutiny of the job, would you do it? Even those who respect the office of public service would admittedly say no. It’s just not worth it. There are too many lame ducks and bad apples.
Unfortunately though, because of this simplistic rationalization, the same vicious circle continues ad nausea. Look at who mans these positions. It’s predominantly people with a life and a lifestyle that allows for this. It’s not so much a career as a source of second income.
I’m not implying that these people aren’t trying their best and in it for the right reasons, but perhaps their best just isn’t enough for the needs of the position. The truth is, can we truly expect any better given the financial restrictions of the job?
Being communally-minded only goes so far and there’s a good reason highly-qualified people choose to remain in the private sector. It’s part autonomy, part economy. The two go hand in hand and the basic fact remains: you will never consistently attract the best people for the job because, to put it bluntly, the realities of the job don’t interest most of the best and the brightest among us. As I said before, you get what you pay for.
Charlie Teljeur is a contributing writer for The Highlander.