Local governance and morality

By P. Mandravelishere are times when certain statistics make an impression on us and lead us toward shallow, and inaccurate, conclusions. An example of this is the number of candidates at last Sunday’s municipal and prefectural elections. «One in every 100 Thessaloniki residents is a candidate,» a major local newspaper reported ahead of Sunday’s polls, suggesting that funding is being wasted in the name of local governance. But the reaction provoked by such an impressive statistic should be more logical. After all, in ancient times virtually all Athenians were candidates in elections. Instead of being pleased that an increasing number of citizens want to participate actively in their communities – whether it is out of a purely selfless urge to contribute or a desire for recognition – we insist on worrying about the high number of candidates. The only plausible explanation for this concern is the possibility that the hundreds of thousands of hopefuls seeking our vote are actually only interested in personal gain. But, again, this is pure speculation. We cannot put people on trial for their intentions, and corruption – like every other crime – is not curbed before it is detected. Some might be uncomfortable with the fact that certain candidates are motivated by fame and not the urge to contribute to their community. But one could argue that it is the outcome that matters, not the motive. If the result is of benefit to society as a whole then why should we care whether the motive is fame, self-promotion or something else? Are we looking for saints to handle our social affairs or efficient individuals? Well, we are unlikely to find any saints, and even if we did, who is to say that they would be efficient? If a candidate’s motive is to fulfill his or her ambitions by achieving results that contribute toward the common good, not only should we be unruffled by this outlook but we should seek to cultivate it. Let us reward with recognition all those who make such efforts as long as they end up producing work that benefits society. We should not taint local government elections through our pointless moralizing but instead be happy with the large number of candidates we can choose from to represent us.