Media Mention of Ziad Asali in The Middle East Times - March 23, 2009 - 12:00am

A QUESTION OF ACCOUNTABILITY: In the waning days of the George W. Bush administration, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized new guidelines making it easier to promote "off-label" drug uses that medical experts say could lead to deadly prescriptions for patients. Douglas Briggs, of Cornelius, NC, USA killed himself after taking Neurontin, a drug approved for epilepsy to help ease his back pain but is suspected of causing suicidal behavior. (Family/Charlotte Observer via Newscom)

Have you ever wondered what the real problem is with politics? Why is it that in politics everything takes years and decades to accomplish when in the private sector life moves at a faster pace? The answer is because, for the most part, politicians are only accountable to themselves. Oh, of course, in democracies those elected to office answer to the electorate at the end of the day. But in some cases that day can be a pretty long one.

How many times have you felt let down by a politician you helped get elected? How many times have you thought that politics need a major overhaul? Most of us have at one time or another felt wronged by a politician, either because we gave them our vote in exchange for promises. But how many times have they broken those promises?

And what can we, the public do? Nothing, or usually very little, until the next elections.

How can the people force politicians to become more responsive to their constituents every day of the year, and not only when election time is just around the corner?

Well, here is a novel idea. What if the U.S. Congress (or parliaments in other countries) were to enact laws whereas the public would have the right to sue politicians for political malpractice, much the same way as doctors, nurses and people in the medical industry are liable to medical malpractice suits?

It's an intriguing idea to say the least, though optimistic at best. The topic of enacting a law that would permit voters to file political malpractice against politicians came about this past weekend.

During a discussion at a meeting of the Young Professionals in Foreign Policy, in Washington, Ziad Asali, a retired medical doctor who has moved into politics, was asked why there was so much lack of progress in the Arab-Israeli dispute, to which:

Dr. Asali replied because "politicians are not held accountable to lawsuits the way doctors are."

Holding politicians accountable to malpractice suites may sound off-the-cuff, and unrealistic. It will never see the light of day, anywhere, but it should be enough to give people – and particularly politicians – something to think about.

One reason that it will never make it past the front door of the Congress is that all those inside are politicians. And politicians would never vote in a law that penalizes them.

Then again, just as the cost of medical care in the United States is so high because of malpractice insurance that people working in the medical field are obliged to purchase, and then pass the costs on to we consumers, so too, would politicians pass on the costs of their political malpractice insurance to us, the consumer. And that would be in the form of more taxes.

On second thoughts we might be slightly better off with politicians who fail to keep their word than to have to contribute to higher taxes and to making lawyers even richer.


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