Elections and Quality

by Milan Vodicka

The involvement with “quality” is ever present – from quality criteria for the design and manufacture of products for professional and customer markets to quality of life. I taught Quality Management courses at the college. Let us define this subject, before applying it to the elections.

What is “quality?” Which of the two following products would you consider being higher quality? A dollar BIC plastic pen, the other a $40 gold plated life-time guaranteed Cross pen? Most of my students initially vouched for the Cross. This choice, however, does not fit the definition: quality means fitness for the purpose. For example, if the purpose would be to provide the means to write to ten students within the budget of $10, the Cross fails miserably. It would not be a quality choice, because it cannot serve the purpose.

It follows that in order to make quality choices, for any endeavor, one has to know what is the purpose of that endeavor. Elections included. What is the purpose of elections? Is there a common purpose?

Elections, assuming they are not “rigged” or “stolen,”  irrespective of individual differences or preferences, will result in a societal choice for certain “governance.” This governance will manifest itself in laws, policies, and judgements rendered during its time in power. The forms of governance may be described by terms, such as “democracy,” “socialism,” “fascism,” and on and on. Hence, what is our (your or mine) purpose to choose one candidate or another?

For any candidate, there are three factors to pay attention to: 1/ the candidate’s qualifications for the job – the job is to govern, 2/ the candidate’s character, and 3/ the candidate’s affiliations and connections. Let me describe how I look at those.

The job of governing is non-trivial and requires expertise. In that regard, many commonly applied criteria fail. For example, “I want my representative (or president) to be someone with whom I can share a beer.” This is not a complete application to govern. Similarly, the pre-election speeches “I want my community (or students) to do well.” What “doing well” means? I would like any candidate to submit a complete, expressed in specifics, application (a resume) for the job of governing.

The character quality to me simply means to be able to point to the candidate and tell my children or grandchildren, really anyone, “I want you to be like that person.” This translates to morality, around the codes of the Ten Commandments or Buddhist Precepts. Certainly, the hypocrites, liars, and other promoters or supporters of violence and suffering are out. The two examples of the good character for me are my (deceased) father-in-law and the Dalai Lama.

With regard to affiliations, here is my personal story I still think about. During one of my past visits to Prague, Czech Republic, some two decades ago, I saw a stand on the street with “get a free beer and a snack.” I did get it, all good! Then… some people came to me with, “are you not ashamed, do you know who is giving you those goodies?” It turned out the stand was part of the pre-election campaign of the communist party. Well, ignorance aside, what would you do – take the “free beer” or not? Should you? Would such action associate you with “communism?”

Such consideration is very relevant in the USA these times. Considering the state of one of the two US governing parties – the Republican Party – I find it very difficult to associate my vote with incompetent governance and character failings of its leaders and representatives. This is evident from the past and recent events. Consequently, all Republican candidates carry the stigma of association.

The purpose of power and wealth for some over well-being and health of the whole society misses the purpose of quality elections. A quality life is impossible without electing candidates who are qualified to do the job of governing, posses an honorable character, and are not associated with opposite of those – yes – “qualities.”

Vote accordingly! And, please, vote!

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