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The politics of parsimony

A few weeks ago I wrote an article about the scientific principle of Occam's Razor (the law of parsimony) in which it is said the explanation offering the fewest assumptions for an event or outcome is usually the right one.

Obviously, the operative word here is 'usually,' and there will always be exceptions, but common sense is a powerful spotlight when shone on intent and actions. We're entering another political season (OMG!) and I've been wondering in my own mind how that principle could be used, perhaps in combination with a few others, to help us determine which candidates to support.

Very soon we'll be getting bombarded with political advertising and when that happens we should do ourselves a big favor by trying to decipher the true meanings of those ads.

We ought to put our political biases and ideologies on hold and open our minds to the messages that lie beneath the obvious message (to get our vote). We should start thinking with our heads instead of our passions on what the political parties are expecting of us and why they are courting our support.

To many dyed-in-the-wool Liberals or Conservatives this sounds like an act of treason, because many of us already know in which political camp we stand. We will be strongly encouraged by our fellow Republicans or Democrats to toe the party line, but I believe that now more than ever we must concentrate on the people running for these offices and not solely on their ideological stripes. Given the extraordinary lack of trust we Americans have in our elected officials, it's high time we get beyond the single issues that divide us and put our faith in the individuals that are asking for our vote.

I know that simple plea demands a lot from us, but we are faced with too many serious issues to ignore the character and integrity of our candidates. People who run for office do so for different reasons.

Some truly want to make a difference in the lives of their fellow citizens; others just want power or influence or a stepping stone to a better office. It's up to us to do our due diligence and elect representatives that are willing to listen and serve our interests instead of preach or pontificate. Our state is blessed and cursed.

Our economy of 'thirds' isn't diverse enough. We are reliant on Federal investments (1/3), oil and gas (1/3) and agriculture, services some manufacturing and everything else (the final 1/3). In short, we are playing a piano with too few keys. The second problem is that we aren't in agreement with each other about what kind of state we really and for future generations.

The City of Santa Fe is a case in point. The city wants more tourism and out-of-state revenue from more visitor stays, but it also wants to remain a prosperous local community where residents enjoy a high quality of life with reasonable taxation and affordable city services.

The questions on how to balance these two sometimes conflicting needs are going to be taken up by a new mayor who many regard as an 'outlier' to Santa Fe's traditional Democrat-dominated government. Another town, Espanola, recently elected a Republican mayor in a Democratic Party stronghold who is faced with his own challenges.

I suspect that the election of these two officials was the result of a voter backlash against the old one-party status quo, or said another way, a voter awakening to the fact that their cities needed a fresh start and a different model of governance from non-traditional candidates.

This may be the harbinger of change for the way the Land of Enchantment views itself and its leaders. I'm optimistic and will continue to look at - and to - the individual candidates rather than their parties for new ideas and I hope you will, too.

Stephan Helgesen is a retired U.S. diplomat and now political analyst and author. He has written nine books and over 800 articles on politics, economics and social trends. He can be reached at:

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