Free Markets, Free People

The political class – how did we end up with these people?

Any political junkie worth his salt has at some time or another looked around at the wreckage that was once a proud country and asked, “how in the world did we get here”?

Simple – we allowed a malignant political class to arise and we, for some reason, chose to allow them to handle our affairs of state without close monitoring that is the job of any responsible citizenry.  The bottom line is we’ve been badly represented by that political class and we’re getting very close to “paying the piper” time.

So how did we get here?  Well I’ve been of the opinion that the perks and power that today’s politics promise are so heady and attractive that they draw a particular type person to pursue such positions.   Maybe not as much at local levels, but certainly at state and most definitely at a national level.  And for the most part this personality type is not who we want in those positions.

At one time, holding office was seen as a public duty, a service and temporary in nature.  A person served their time, did their duty – usually at a loss earnings-wise – and then went back to their former life.

Not anymore.  Now we have the Bill Clinton-type personalities whose entire focus in life is to become a politician.  It isn’t about duty or service anymore, it’s about a career and the trappings of power that go with it.  Couple that with a belief that they know better than you what your priorities and responsibilities in life should be and how you should live it, and we end up where we are today.

When the priority changes from being about service to being about a career, the incentives change as well.  Under the first scenario, a politician would consider it his or her duty to be a careful steward and do the people’s business with an understanding that his decisions will effect him and his family too.  He’d also have an incentive, then, to face difficult problems and solve them quickly before they get out of hand.  He’d also be less inclined to worry about the “political” effect of tough decisions since he had no designs on staying in the position of power any longer than necessary to fulfill his obligation to serve.

However, when the focus is on a career in politics, then the focus is decidedly not on the people’s business, but instead on that person’s business – their career.  And maintaining that career and lifestyle and the power that comes with it becomes the first and dominant priority.

Those wishing to get elected and stay elected must be prepared to break every moral rule they have ever known if the ends justify it. Economist Frank Knight notes that those in authority, "would have to do these things whether they wanted to or not: and the probability of the people in power being individuals who would dislike the possession and exercise of power is on a level with the probability that an extremely tender-hearted person would get the job of whipping master in a slave plantation."

That paragraph describes, with exceptions, the dominant political class in charge of our country’s politics today.  It also helps explain why they’re so out of touch with the rest of the country.  Their focus is inward, their constituency is within the party and the beltway, not the populace and they attempt to keep power by throwing out just enough bones to keep the populist dogs at bay.  They ensure reelection through devious device only open to incumbents known as  “constituent services” which in reality means they offer the only remedy to a situation or law they helped create and propagate to those caught up in its consequences.

In other words, all our politics now are about serving special interests and using those special interests to maintain elected office or advance to higher ones.  The issues themselves are somewhat incidental to the process of maintaining or advancing in office.  If it is useful to that end, then we’ll see politicians blather on about fixing this or doing that. 

For the most part, however, not much really gets done.  Oh some money may be thrown at a ”problem” and some bureaucracy set up or a study done.  But no solution is really ever forthcoming.  Look at how long Medicare and Social Security have been identified as future fiscal black holes.  Show me where anyone – anyone – has seriously addressed the real problems we face with them (and no, ObamaCare doesn’t address the Medicare problem, it instead exacerbates it) and taken steps to solve them?  We’ve seen them talked about endlessly.  We’ve seen accusations fly from one side to the other and back.  But when all is said, nothing is done, and the can is once again kicked down the road while politicians point fingers at everyone but themselves.

Meanwhile, those in power stay in power and the only thing that changes is the amount of money you and your family owe due to their profligacy.

Is it any wonder the Tea Parties have arisen?  My only question, looking back over the years, is why did it take so long?



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6 Responses to The political class – how did we end up with these people?

  • I recall a news story several years ago which focused on two freshman congressmen (one Republican and one Democrat) who described their disillusion with the “DC Experience.”  They were enthusiastic and idealistic when heading to Washington, only to quickly realize that they would not get anything done unless they played a constant game of “scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”  Support for their legislative priorities, regardless of how genuinely useful they may be, hinged entirely on “yes” votes for other agenda items, whether they wanted to support them or not.
    An atmosphere where everyone is focused on how to advance his personal position, instead of focusing on the needs of his constituency and the country as a whole, is going to end up the way our government has.  And with only two political parties in control, it’s even easier to put aside actual work and spend all of their time playing at politics.

  • Shakespeare commented on the ‘why now’ question several hundred years ago:  “the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

  • It really is our own fault.  Families treat these political seats like hereditary posessions and who can blame them?  We keep electing the same lousy families to office over and over.  NY is about to put yet another Cuomo in the governor’s mansion. For what reason exactly?  No more than his last name really.

    Turn all the bums out

  • Yes, we are at fault. But our friends in the media don’t help either. Don’t forget, they have a vested interest in having a political class to hob knobs with. I remember a comment from David Brinkley’s book about life in DC circa 1941 (when he first went to Washington). Essentially he said that air conditioning was the worst thing to happen to American politics because it allowed Congress to meet year round.
    As much as I don’t like it, I’m almost convinced that term limits are a start.

  • Bruce, you’re too kind.
    This problem is bigger than personalities of the elected officials in the White House and on Capitol Hill.  yeah, it’s them and the folks of K Street, the media, and all the federal bureaucrats all over DC.  This is the result of the rise of the Political Industrial Complex.