Nathan Zimmerman –
When an Illinoisan thinks of politics, probably the first thing that comes to mind is “corruption.” The second association may involve distrust, shadiness, or some combination of the two.
In this article, the intent is to simply entertain and compare the perceptions most have of our beloved politicians compared to the people that deal with our vehicles: namely mechanics.
Last month, over the holiday break, my 1999 Mercury Cougar was on the last legs of its life. I needed to get a new(er) vehicle, and I could not waste any time as I needed it quick.
After looking for a couple of weeks, I decided to purchase a 2003 Chevy Cavalier that looked to be in excellent shape based on a first, thorough look from my mechanically limited experience. I obtained the loan, traded them my old car, and was on my way home for a county board meeting. When test driving it, everything worked great and I felt confident about the purchase.
However, a couple of days later the brakes were feeling loose so I took it a repair shop recommended to me by a friend. That evening I received a call that all of the brakes needed to be replaced as well as all of the hardware. In addition to that, the battery was bad and a light needed to be put in above the license plate. Since I needed the car back before that Monday evening and I was not sure that the vehicle could make the trip, $734.26 later I had my car and was a poorer, but content, person.
The following week, I noticed a few problems that were previously undetected. The biggest issue was that a headlight would not stay on. I replaced the bulb and that didn’t help so it had to be something electrical. Now I could have just been too concentrated on the brakes acting up to realize any of the small problems but I did not even notice these when test driving and looking the car over.
In politics as well as economics, one problem that exists is that of information asymmetry. As defined by Investopedia, information asymmetry is a “situation in which one party in a transaction has more or superior information compared to another.”
A mechanic, like any businessman, would want to get all the money they can from you; the fact that you go to a mechanic shows the information asymmetry that exists in that they know how to fix your problem when you don’t have the knowledge or time to do it yourself. Since they know this much already when you walk through the door, what if something else is “accidentally” broken to get you back in that door again?
This is very much applicable to politicians. Why aren’t politicians in general trusted and how does this relate to mechanic? A mechanic is hired to fix your car but the idea of creating more profit incentivizes him/her to act immorally to continue getting your business. A politician is elected to be representative of his/her constituents. However, once elected, the individual gains information that their constituents may not have and thus, a politician can begin to work more for their own self-interests than his or her constituency base as a whole.
Now the point of this article is not to say that there are no such thing as honest politicians or mechanics, but to reinforce why it is so hard to find one that we trust. We may have had a great, trusted mechanic in our home towns, but when moving into a new location it often times takes a great deal of patience to find a mechanic with whom you build a positive rapport.
Instances where information is taken advantage of and profited from due to information asymmetry can cast an entire system into a negative light. This makes it that much harder for the honest workers, mechanics, and politicians to rectify others’ mistakes and re-establish trust in the system.
So if you know of a local trustworthy mechanic, please point them in my direction. In regards to trustworthy politicians: good luck.
Nathan A. Zimmerman, from Mt. Sterling, Illinois, is a junior majoring in Finance and Economics with a minor in Political Science. Nathan is the Organizational Outreach Chair of the Student Senate, the President of the Warren O. Billhartz Investment Club, as well as an active member of Enactus. Nathan is a features and opinions writer for The Rambler.