We choose what to study, and we choose how to study that thing. There’s nothing stopping the creative student of behavior from treating Congress like a jungle. Let’s study it using the tools of ecology, biology, even ethnology.
And what do we find?
We find a culture that is quite at odds with the greater embedded ecosystem (society at large). For instance, society calls for a politician to represent the people and make laws that further the common good. This is what we call a job function. In a well-defined job, the function, the tasks, and the skill sets of all the participants work together to make the job’s performance perfect.
In the case of politicians, we find that even though the function (making laws) is explicit, the task that are called for and the tasks they do in reality are very different.
The tasks we ask politicians to accomplish are listening to constituents, working with fellow law makers, learning all they can about related technologies, and then crafting laws that further our nation.
In reality, what we see is that the denizens of this ecosystem spend their time fighting each other, talking to lobbyists and other special interests, and most importantly, judging their performance based on their ability to ‘survive’ in the ecosystem – get re-elected.
And this is the ultimate equivalency to our ecosystem. Survival.
The ultimate goal of a politician is to survive, and this means reelection. It does not mean doing good, or listening, or even having morals. It all depends on the vote.
For this type of ecosystem there are certain personalities who do better than others. People who have been trained to subjugate concepts like truth to sophistry. Or justice being secondary to winning.
In this type of ecosystem, it should be no wonder that the denizens create a lifestyle that benefits themselves at the expense of their electorate. So why do we get angry when we learn that Congress does not have to abide by any of the workplace laws they impose on anyone else? Why are we upset when we learn that their pensions are far better than anything in the private sector? Why should we be annoyed when we learn that their health care benefits are fully paid for by us, even when certain ‘conservative’ elements rail against government helping the poor with their health care needs?
In this ecosystem, the inhabitants need to feed, and because of the way we have structured our society, the best sources of food are large economic interests: Energy, processed foods, transportation, drugs, communications, automotive manufacturing, and many others. In order to keep feeding at the trough of special interests, the inhabitants of this ecosystem must pass laws that allow them access to this food. Does this bias their decision-making? Of course. Will they ever admit it? Of course not.
Now, what do we do about it?