One is forced to the generalization that at the level of the individual it is all exogenous, while at the level of the society, it is all endogenous. Take the market, for instance. To an individual, price is something that is a given and whether he or she participates in the market or not, cannot change the price. Price is determined externally and is indifferent to the efforts of the individual. It arises from almost magically from the collective interactions of the individuals in the market. Price arises out of, and is a reflection of, “the collective will” of the people, so to speak. Prices are democratically determined in competitive markets. Which brings me to the other example of the generalization above: governance.
A government is determined exogenously at the level of the individual but is endogenous at the level of the society. No single person’s actions can affect the governance of a society. The individual is a “government taker” in the same sense that an individual is a “price taker.” You take what you are given. But collectively, society chooses the government. Governments, like prices, are endogenous to society but exogenous to individuals.
Why do different societies end up with governments that differ qualitatively? The short answer would be that it is so because societies themselves differ qualitatively. People — not individuals — deserve the government they get. Leaders reflect the soul of the people they represent. A society’s leadership cannot be corrupt, morally bankrupt, myopic, unethical, illiterate and stupid unless the people as a collective are themselves so. Enlightened leadership is the lot of people who are themselves enlightened. Leadership is endogenous.
“Many countries, including the U.S., have lawmakers who run afoul of the law, and it’s not uncommon in developing countries for those fleeing the law to find sanctuary in political office. Brazilian legislators, for example, have been accused of entering politics to take advantage of a law that grants them immunity from criminal prosecution in office.
“Few countries, however, can match India’s numbers. Following the 2004 election, almost a quarter of the 535 elected members of India’s national parliament have criminal charges registered against them or pending in court, according to the Public Affairs Center, an Indian elections watchdog. Half of those with charges pending against them face prison terms of at least five years if convicted.”
That is from the Wall Street Journal article of May 4th which beings thus:
“Since late 2005, Mukhtar Ansari has been confined to this ramshackle town’s jailhouse, accused of conspiracy to murder. That charge and 27 other criminal cases lodged against him over 19 years have done little to derail a long political career.
“In 1996, months after being charged with firing an AK-47 at the local police commissioner, Mr. Ansari was voted a member of his state’s Legislative Assembly, the equivalent of an American state senate. In 2002, while facing a charge of illegal arms possession, he won re-election by a wide margin.
“Now, the 40-year-old Mr. Ansari is running again for re-election in Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. He’s expected to sail back into office in elections next Tuesday, thanks to a potent mix of divisive politics and political largess. His brother, Afzal, locked up with him in the Ghazipur District Jail, is a member of India’s national parliament in New Delhi.”
So national and state legislatures have a large number of criminals. These people were not foisted upon the population; they were elected by the people. India has a representative government and the political leaders represent the people. The leaders reflect the basic characteristics of the people. These representatives then go on to elect the head of state, the President of India. The president then represents the collective characteristics of the elected representatives of the people.
Well you made your bed, now sleep in it, as my granny used to say. Good luck, people of India.
[This post inspired by the UPA and this.]