Monday, April 27, 2009

Occupational origins of politicians

The Economist has an absolutely fascinating article on the occupational origins of politicians across the world. Two graphics from the same article, reproduced below, captures several interesting facts.

A few observations
1. Law is the dominant occupation among American politicians and engineering among Chinese apparatchiks. The dominant presence of lawyers in US, India, Brazil and Egypt may be a testimony to many complemetarities and inter-linkages between the two occupations in democratic polities.
2. The limited numbers of civil servants entering politics in vibrant democracies like India and the US, may be an indication of the fairly strong separation of responsibilities and powers between the permanent and political executives. In contrast, China, which does not have this distinction, has a large number of civil servant politicians. Though, the French establishment, with the dominance of the supe civl servant énarques, or graduates from the Ecole Nationale d’Administration (ENA), is an exception.
3. The near total absence of ex-military officials among politicians in India is a testament to its great achievement in keeping the army and uniformed forces insulated from politics. The fragile nature of South Korean democracy is evident from the disproportionately large number of military men in politics.
4. Teachers are a surprising absentee among Indian politicians. Given their large student audience and the deference given to teachers, especially in the rural context of India, one would have thought that teachers were an ideal platform for future political activity. Further, apart form lawyers, teaching is another occupation which has complementarities with politics, especially in good communication skills.
5. Business has strong presence, increasingly so in democracies like India and the US, an indication of the institutionalization of business interests in the governance system. The article lists out four possible reasons for the flight of businessmen into politics - politics helps them harm competitors; businessmen are often the only ones rich enough to finance increasingly expensive election campaigns; business people do not trust politicians to keep campaign promises and hence go into politics themselves; parliamentary immunity enables businessmen to ward off legal investigation. Businessmen are the second largest source of
6. There are also country specific exceptions among the source of politicians, like lawyers dominating in the US, engineers in China, academicians in Egypt, doctors in Brazil, civil servants and military personnel in South Korea etc.

Increasingly, though, in a welcome development, politics is emerging as a career choice. This has been made possible "by a penumbra of quasi-political institutions — think-tanks, consultancies, lobbying firms, politicians’ back offices" - all of which have increased job opportunities for would-be politicians. In India, though, it is more a career choice for the second generation in successful political families. The entry barriers continue to remain considerable for professional outsiders to make a mark.


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SUN-GOD said...

Let's look at the graph relating to India. Leaving the 'others' category apart, lawyers and businessmen form sizeable part of the political class. Obviously, these lawyers and businessmen are filthy rich and they certainly have vested interests for joining the political arena. Now, are we not seeing the utter degeneration of politics in India, year-after-year and election-after-election? Rather than a avenue for public service, politics has certainly turned into a lucrative money-making venture for one and all, barring just one or two examples like Dr N Jayaprakash Narayan. One needs to spend money heavily first to gain a foot-hold in the political field these days. Of course, that money -- and lots and lots more -- could be earned in no time if one gets to become a legislator or even a small time local public representative.
Hence, politics these days has become the field for sleazy people who can make sleazy money -- all at the cost of the helpless people and also at the cost of the country. SHAMEFUL, indeed.