The problem with vision is that it's so darned long-term - no quick payoff. Governments have become like many large companies that have quit investing in their future because the CEO's survival depends on keeping the stock price rising. Today's investors are looking for quick rewards.
So, of course, are most politicians. Their rewards are called votes. The politicians know they're unlikely to be around a decade or two down the road, so they put the public's money into programs and projects that will please voters at the next election. Let the future be damned - lay on the bread and circuses.
Using the analogy, the voter is the "investor" and they demand immediate dividends. The implication, people don't have the foresight to support an agenda which takes a generational view. Are the voters to blame for the age of retail politics, do we lack the sophistication and patience to allow a government to act responsibly?
There is no question that the Harper government operates like a corporation, selling a brand. Having said that, degree aside, there is no denying that the former Martin government was also guilty of looking for quick "returns" on policy. There are exceptions, but most initiatives are designed to appeal to voters in the now, rather than ideas that require time to fully flower. Governments are more apt to throw money at a problem, even if there are other remedies available, that speak to long-term solutions. If government does acknowledge a cost, many times it is deferred, so the immediate prospects of the government aren't harmed.
The rise of retail politics have also brought about a rise in voter cynicism. People see the attempt at "sale", a sense that politicians are more interested in telling them what they want to hear, than presenting honest assessments. If politicians are merely reacting to the environment that demands immediate returns, then it seems odd that people would admonish what they themselves request, articulated through their fickleness. We buy it, government is merely reactionary, they give us what we want. Our cynicism is mostly self-inflicted, since we respond to transparent vote buys and shun any bold initiative, that might attach cost.
The question moving forward, is the age of retail politics the end game, or just a phase. Is there any room left for a coherent vision, that factors in long-term consequence, or is our current government the new norm?