It's a worry since times immemorial: is the overall quality of elected officials declining over time?

This is an interesting question and obviously hugely subjective. But let's assume for a minute it is and ask ourselves: why would that be the case? (A #CDNPOLI THREAD) 1/
The first thing I'd want to look at is compensation.

When we look at this, it has remained remarkably steady over the past few decades (this chart attempts to account for the tax-free allowances, give a picture of what a consistent "pre-tax" income would be). 2/
But this only tells part of the story - a story is tied up in the explosive growth of income among high earners.

Relative to other "elite" jobs, compensation for MPs has not kept pace. An MP used to be a 1%er. When we consider their alternatives, the job looks less desirable. 3/
You can argue whether that is good or bad, but certainly it means it will be more difficult to persuade high income Canadians to become MPs. 4/
Of course, your income is not a guarantee of your competence. What else do we know about how the job compares to alternatives?

Well, it doesn't offer prestige. An Angus Reid poll from 2019 shows 64% of Canadians believe politicians can't be trusted. 5/
This contrasts negatively to almost every other profession. Ipsos MORI's trust index for 2019 had Canadians ranking politicians at the very bottom of professions - tied with advertising executives. 6/
And while I don't have politician-specific or Canadian-specific numbers over time, in the United States we can say rather confidently that trust in government has been generally declining over the past several decades. 7/
So relative to your options it likely pays less than it did in the past. It's less respected. But you still get to make a big difference, right?

Maybe not. The authority of individual MPs has arguably never been lower relative to the first minister. 8/
This one's a lot harder to quantify. Many academics have taken stabs and many works have been written to quantify this phenomenon. Among the political class this centralization is just taken as a given. 9/
In summary: the job of an individual MP has seen a relative decline in compensation, a real decline in prestige and a real decline in the ability to affect change.

This isn't to say anything of the grind this 24/7 job is. It'd be shocking if quality hasn't declined. 10/
Politicians aren't blameless in this - they will often play the populist card: it's popular to attack salaries of MPs while in opposition, it's tempting to centralize power when you're the one in power, it's easy to encourage cynicism about politics. 11/
But we might want to ask as the ultimate shareholders in this democracy: do we want to continue to encourage and propagate this race to the bottom?

Or, in pursuit of better outcomes, should we be thinking about how we incentivize better candidates, better representation? 12/12
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