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People are a Problem
Posted by: Jon Henke on Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Eric Scheie at Classical Values...
Those who most want to be president are those who least deserve to be elected. The best presidents are those who are forced or persuaded by others into accepting the job.
...reminds me of this great Douglas Adams quotes...
One of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.

To summarize: it is a well known fact, that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.

To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made president should on no account be allowed to do the job.

To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
Tyler Cowen, during an interesting exchange with Ezra Klein about the assumptions of human behavior that explain their political philosophies, made a similar point...
[R]elative to most libertarian economists, I am more likely to think — or should I say admit — that human beings are irrational, even when the stakes are high [...]

But, relative to social democrats, I tend to think that politicians are irrational actors trying to pander to irrational voters and that it can't be any other way.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Actually it goes back to Plato, who in The Republic argued that those who want power are precisely those who shouldn’t have it.
Written By: Scott Erb
Corollary of the summary...

We get the government we deserve.
Written By: D
URL: http://
people are a problem.
I used to joke "I’m a social drinker: I drink so I can stand to be around people."

I mean, I still say it, it just isn’t a joke any more...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
I hate to be a drag, imagining what could have been but; I agree most vehemently with what DA said. Which is part of why I supported Fred. Part of what I liked about him was that lack of "fire in the belly". People who are serving themselves have that fire in the belly. Someone who is looking to do a public a service will at some point say to themselves; "I don’t need this crap". For Fred that moment has come and gone. He is not the one who lost out.
Written By: Paden Cash
URL: http://
You could also state is as something like, "the people are likely to elect the people who least to deserve to be elected." That restates the above, more or less, but emphasizes the agent of the problem. The people generally don’t seem likely to choose someone who will make responsible choices that don’t directly benefit them, such as someone who would direct much of the government’s revenue to reducing the public debt, over someone who will choose to effectively give the public some gift, such as an expanded social program or earmark.

The problem of who should choose the government remains as the people have proven problematic, but I can think, unless a few hundred of Plato’s Philosopher-Kings are planning to emerge into existence some time soon, of no substitute that I would trust to replace them. I suppose the best amelioration that my limited faculty can conceive is mixed government, of the kind so often lauded by old scholars and originally created for the United States, that would pit oligarchs against democrats and, I would hope, cause them to temper one another.

It’s frustrating that very intelligent people will demand that we assess public programs by their results, not how much is spent on them, but few or none apply the same to government in general, which they instead evaluate on the grounds of how ’democratic’ it is. Of course, choosing the measures and standards whereby we could evaluate government would be a great and contentious problem.
Written By: Paludicola
Groucho made a similar point:

I don’t care to belong to a club that accepts people like me as members.
Written By: vnjagvet
I’m convinced the problem gets worse as power is centralized (which is the major reason why I would prefer a confederal United States, and oppose foreign policy interventionism abroad). Politics becomes mass marketing rather than deliberation and debate, and now candidates are so scripted and play the ’gotcha game’ where misstatements or gaffes play a larger role than discussion that its more spectacle than anything else.
Written By: Scott Erb
The logic of the main assertions are why I cannot be an ideologue or a perpetual partisan.

Our democracy is a battle between interests, none of which taken to extremes would serve the interests of the public. If Republicans got EVERYTHING they wanted, it would be a nightmare, and if Democrats got EVERYTHING they wanted, it would be a nightmare (same with libertarians, if there is such a thing, by the way).

I think of government as a pendulum, swinging back and forth, but working best when it’s closer to the middle. So I might be a Republican in one decade, and a Democrat in another, dpending on which way the pendulum has swung.

One thing you all have noticed, and I have been saying for years, is that none of these so-called leaders are going to make government smaller, they are just going to make the parts they don’t like smaller, and the parts they like bigger, with the total effect being just a bigger government.

I am not reaching for socialist harmony, or libertopian anarchy, just sustainability, which seems possible only if we continue to balance between competing interests.

Look at unions versus management. For my early life, I was a big proponent of managment, as unions had taken their influence and power too far. Now, the pendulum has swung and union power is negligable, but the power of corporate interests has never been stronger. I am on the union side of the equation now in the interest of balance.

The ideologues are ALWAYS on one side or another, whether they hold 90% of the influence , or 10%, and I think that is a mistake. You can have too much of a good thing.


Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
Cap — I knew if I read this blog enough you and I would agree on something:>)
Written By: vnjagvet
I think of government as a pendulum, swinging back and forth, but working best when it’s closer to the middle.
That might be a useful yardstick from some perspectives, but I don’t find the Golden Mean to be a compelling idea for what government should be.
Written By: Jon Henke
That might be a useful yardstick from some perspectives, but I don’t find the Golden Mean to be a compelling idea for what government should be.
Fair enough, how about this as a compelling idea for what government should be...

I think of government as a pendulum, swinging back and forth, but working best when it’s farther from the edge.

As far as what goverment should be, you make it pretty clear with in this very posting why it can’t be what it could be, so I don’t feel bad working within the possible.

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
I was reading the link to Classical Values, and I came across an interesing statement...
I have yet to figure out how Thompson was the savior and McCain was the devil, given how close their voting records were.

McCain gets accused of "spitting on the First Amendment", yet Thompson supporters conveniently forget Thompson was a COSPONSOR of that bill.
I am sure you are well aware of this, but wow, McCain-Feingold-Thompson?

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
As I’ve been traveling domestically quite a bit recently, I’ve enjoyed asking fellow travelers their thoughts about the candidates. I’m always amused at the consistency of their rationale for the various candidates they support:

Obama: "He’s about change." Asked what kind of change, I usually get something along the lines of "well, um, doing things differently than the past! A fresh start." Nobody can point to any specifics.

Hillary: "She’s strong" combined with "We’ll get Bill back - you just *know* she’ll listen to him." Clinical delusions.

McCain: "He’s a hero! A WAR hero. And he can end the war, like a hero would. With honor." Again, no details and actual complete disbelief when you ask if they also support his positions.

Huckabee: "He’s a good Christian. A good man. We need good men in leadership."

In a sense, much of the electorate appears to have not progressed past first grade. Their rational assessment skills are nonexistent. They’re simply projecting all sorts of desired attributes into someone based on useless qualifications.

Written By: redherkey
URL: http://

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