public policy you gotta love it

In Monday’s Yukon News Richard Mostyn editorialized that Yukon politicians are overdue for a pay raise.

In Monday’s Yukon News Richard Mostyn editorialized that Yukon politicians are overdue for a pay raise. His conclusion: “Our politicians lack cents.”

While I am not sure I agree with him this is not the point of today’s column. I am more interested in exploring the idea that our politicians lack “sense.”

With humanity and the environment at the precipice, I wonder what it is politicians have neglected to incorporate into their decision-making process?

Politicians today seem to be unduly motivated by job creation and sustainable economics as the be-all and end-all of civic responsibility.

Budgets are defined and defended by a hodgepodge of such politically correct notions as transparency, integrity and duty.

But is this enough?

No!

What is missing for me at the end of the day is affection.

Affection!

Sound trite?

I don’t think so.

The intricacies and legalities of today’s public policies discourage us from being affectionate about land, people, nature, culture, or economy.

We do not, out of necessity, need smarter, richer or more polished people in political office. What we do need however are people who are more caring, compassionate and loving.

Sound too touchy feely? It’s quite the opposite, in fact.

To be, to act, and to embrace affection in one’s work and about one’s place was, at one time, the bedrock of both liberal and conservative institutions in Canada.

Environmentalism, family farming, small business, professional teaching, faith, vocation, parenting and good work are all rooted in affection.

Why not public policy?

Learning to use affection as a standard for social and economic policy can provide us practical alternatives to sticky problems.

Looking for love in all the right places is, of course, not new. But what is relatively new is that we are now finding ways to incorporate it on a broad scale.

Over the last quarter century, love has slowly begun to regain its foothold in social, economic, and democratic policy making.

Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson has written extensively on “biophilia” —  the love of life. In his work he insists we must learn to love all life enough to want to save it.

Yi Fu Tuan places love at the centre of his metropolitan thinking. He embraces what he calls “topophilia” — the affective bond between people and their places.

Tuan insists love of place is crucial to our social and economic future and he encourages us to look for ways to incorporate perception and value into political dialogue.

Writer Richard Nelson insists, “Every place, like every person, is elevated by the love and respect shown toward it, and by the way in which its bounty is received.”

Environmental historians Herman Daly and John Cobb now see affection for community as the single most important source of community prosperity.

“Affection,” they say, “is the key to planned human settlements serving the real needs of people in each community.”

And on a larger scale, they insist, “urban centres are held together with this same affection. Cities are nothing more than a community of communities.”

The reason affection can trigger constructive social and economic alternatives is that, unlike such notions as quantity, rate of return, rate of exchange and pay back, affection does not in itself need to be rewarded, elevated or praised.

We do not generate love by thinking, by being well qualified, or by being well rewarded.

Love happens only as a consequence of membership and participation, undertaken as it were, on equal footing and without judgment.

Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry alerts us to the fact proper land use and long-term community stability rests on all members making good ecological sense.

For him this means scale, knowledge, tools, skills, and affection must be right for the place.

Introducing love of land, love of place, and love of life into public policy can open new doors for both conservative and liberal governments.

Love of land is our incentive to base political decisions on stewardship and not merely ownership.

Love of place is better served by fusing socialist policies with free market incentives. Over time such bi-political public policy will help reinstate such character traits as self-reliance and competence.

Our love of life is the one guarantee we have that public policy will not pit the secular against the spiritual.

Affection for both heaven and earth begins with the knowledge that human beings are that part of creation that has a special responsibility with respect to the whole.

Those who discount the sensibleness of affection to public policy are, it seems to me, obligated to tell us why.