Original Post here: http://indianlibertarians.org/the-honest-politician/
Mark Twain famously said “No man’s life, liberty, or properties are safe while the legislature is in session.” Politics has been the dominating factor for thousands of years now shaping the human society. Philosophy and religion are the other two tools besides politics which plays the influencing role in shaping of our society. Politics has fused itself with philosophy and religion to become the de facto tool in dealings of our society. With the rise of representative republics, democracies and constitutional monarchies politicians are the individuals who rules over us. The apparatus of representative government running the state chosen by us gives us the illusion that we are the ones who are part of the government and we are the decision makers. Abraham Lincoln’s famous quote “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the Earth.” reflects the central idea of this belief. With this belief we the governed masses take interest in politics and political decision making which will help us in betterment of our lives, preserve our liberties and finally protect our lives and properties from harm. This makes the process of choosing a political representative, the politician a critical part. We desire our politician to be incorruptible, a do-gooder, an intellectual, competent to address over problems, unbiased, moral, ethical, humanitarian, truthful, passionate, having a pleasing personality, strong enough to take pressures of running the state, witty, diplomatic, to be able to remain cool and calm when required and all the other idealistic traits and characteristics we would love to see in an imaginary idealistic perfect person.
Being a politician is not an easy task. In representative democracies the role of the politician is more demanding as he has to be the popular amongst the masses to become their ruler. One wonders how can some individuals appeal and please millions of voters to become powerful ruler by winning the elections and rule over them including the ones who voted for him. The state incorporates this mechanism within itself of producing politicians and the methods to make them popular. The state is one of the most tempting institution and the most powerful agent in human society. The state by definition is the territorial monopoly over the use of so called legitimate force and ultimate decision making. The state is considered as the agency which helps in maintaining order and welfare in society. It is seen a noble agency for most. It’s supposed to be an agency of social service. It’s an agency just like the idealistic imagination that we have of our ideal honest politician. We have a similar idealistic picture in our mind for the state. In fact it’s the state through its methods of indoctrination and propaganda has convinced us of its omnipotence. The state indoctrinates us by taking control of us since childhood via means of schooling, making laws of moral standards and also via religious institutions. It uses religion as a tool by incorporating religion into its laws and at times presenting itself as a secular state which protects freedom of religion. Religious priests are used to give the state the sacred sanction of being the protector and the promoter of religion and peace. The intellectuals are the next. They are given patronage and positions of prestige by the state. They themselves are convinced that the state actually benefited them and praise the state for its promotion of scientific research. We view intellectuals as the wise advisers who cannot err nor make stupid mistakes. We assume that they are men of moral and ethical perfection as they sacrifice their lives for well-being of fellow men. Sentiments of race, nationalism and patriotism are other ideological elements which the state uses. Linking them with history, tradition and culture of the region it integrates the diversity and forms the nation-state. Not all individuals support the state. Some individuals view the state as an evil institution however they say it’s a necessary institution otherwise the society will disintegrate into chaos and disorder.
The reality is different from our interpretation of the state and politicians as we have experienced for several thousand years with the state that it’s not what we assume it to be. Human beings are probably the only species which can deceive itself by perceiving reality in their own way. In the real world the changes are continuous. Time and again we find conflicting interests with our fellow men over how resources need to be managed and how society needs to be organized. The conflicts are mostly over resources. Resources are scarce. We continuously deal with the scarcity of resources and the infinite wants to utilize those resources. With our labor and trade we come to own certain resources and add them to our private possession. There are individuals who are envious of other individual’s private possessions. Every individual is unique. They have different abilities and skills. They choose differently. Due to this difference between one individual and another at any point of time we find that different individuals have different amount of wealth in their possessions. Some have no wealth at all. Some are under debts. For some the situation is even worse and their survival is at stake. To make matters worse some individuals lose their wealth due to natural factors where as some individuals are exploited by their fellow men. The history is full of evidences and tales of exploitation of one individual or group of individuals by another. In this world of crisis and opportunities, of scarcity of one resource and abundance of another, of exploiters and exploited and of the haves and have not; politicians are the individuals who exploit these opportunities, taking advantage of our beliefs, conflicts and sentiments to establish themselves as the saviors, solution providers as our popular leader.
Every individual is unique. However we know that there are identifiable personality traits or patterns which are commonly found in quite a large number of individuals. These traits are strong in certain individuals, in some it might be mild and absent in certain individuals. These personality traits called as archetypes or personality types are studied under various schools/branches of psychology. Politicians are also subject of various studies done by many psychologists. We already know the traits we expect to see in an ideal politician such as honestly, trustworthiness, competence, rationality, wits, authoritative, adventurous, inspirational etc. The conclusions arrived by many of these studies are alarmingly different. Most studies found that politicians share distinct similarities found in psychopaths and serial killers. Almost all studies found them suffering from some form of narcissism and pathological liars. The politician has to be popular with the masses. Only a self-obsessed narcissist can convince others by telling how competent they are. Being pathological liars they brag about their abilities and accomplishments manipulating and exaggerating the data they present to the masses. Elections are mostly fought on personality versus personality basis rather than a realistic and rational problem-solution method. Studies also show that facial features and the personality of the politician matters. Voters subconsciously try to figure out who is a fitting candidate from their looks. Politicians tend to be good with language and are mostly great orators. Politicians are good actors. They have to continuously pretend that they care about the masses. Acting to keep calm and a poker face through all crises is essential job requirement. Politicians jobs also require them to take decisions to wage wars in which huge destruction takes place, manage welfare funding, dislocate people from their properties if necessary, order execution of criminals, mass execution of civilians, working in secrecy and put their weight around to get what they desire even if it needs to be done by threats. Such decisions to drop nuclear bombs on highly populated cities are not easy to call for most human beings. Many studies have shown that dropping A-Bombs on Japan was completely unnecessary. Most of us cannot order such autocracies. Only an insane mind can do so. Politicians drag us into hate and wars. Politicians with power are interested in women and sex. Scores of instances about affairs of politician’s relationships with women and involvement in sex scandals are known. Politicians due to their narcissist traits feel that they are the ones who can change the world. They crave for power as they want to change the world and impose things they consider right. There are politicians who love to be praised and considered as a messiah of the masses. They will brag about their simple lifestyle, that they sacrifice their own well-being for the sake of the people etc. They will pretend to be easily approachable by the public and lead a life amongst them. Such politicians rarely are interested in increasing personal materialist wealth but find gratification in praises, popularity and being worshiped by the people as a noblest person. Others like flamboyance and materialist well-being. They’ll talk about progress, welfare, education, poverty, women rights, minority rights etc. They lead keep their personal lives away from public eye. Material wealth of such politicians grows by the day and are rarely worshiped by the masses as noble ethical and one of their own but liked and loved for being competent efficient statesman.
The masses lead a different life than politicians. The masses are the productive class. Their lives revolve around producing various goods and services, planning for the future, upbringing of their kids, well-being of their families, following their hobbies and interests, involving in social things like festivals and celebrations etc. The masses prefer to cooperate and resolve conflicts and differences via negotiations and other peaceful means over violent means. The masses can be categorized into two types: the liberals and the conservatives. Here the words liberals and conservatives do not reflect the mainstream political reference of liberals and conservatives but the literal meaning of the words. Our needs with time and generation keep evolving. The technology changes, knowledge changes, environment changes, traditions changes and cultures change. We all dislike changes as we have to adjust according to them which involve costs. Individuals who are liberals often views changes as a good thing. They love to make things better. They want cultures and traditions to discard the inefficient ways of the past and accept better and efficient ways of the present times. These segments of the masses are likely to be appealed by politicians who talks about change, progress and development. The liberals think that if they don’t change they will be left behind and sooner or later they have to struggle for survival. The conservatives on the other hand do not like changes. They like to see things as they are at least to a large extend. They consider changes as a threat to their cultures and tradition. They view culture and traditions as a binding and uniting factor which maintains peace and order in society. Liberals and conservatives are thus form the two opposite ends of the spectrum. Most individuals have certain conservative element as well as liberal elements within them. Only few are extreme liberals or conservatives. For example a person may be liberal about the way he does production and runs his business but very conservative when it comes to how they should run their family conducts. On the other hand there are businesses which still manufacture goods and provide services in the old fashion traditional way. However these individuals may be very liberal in their personal lives. When it comes to politics and how things must be managed in society, their views remain the same. Politicians who are at the extreme ends of being liberals or conservatives are rarely popular and rise to the top as they fail to appeal to the majority of the voters who are in the center of the liberal-conservative spectrum. Depending on the need of the time the balance tilts in favor of liberals or conservatives and changes along with preservation takes place. For example an economic crisis most conservatives will be ready to accept most decisions demanding changes in the economy. In cases like when there is a threat war or conflicts with influx of immigrants or refugees the liberals might accept to traditional values. During economic boom time conservatives might get their way by saying that too much progress is a threat pointing to damage to environment, uncertainties due to unseen unknown effects of these changes, employment disparities etc. However during this period due to material well-being cultural and traditional adjustments to liberal ways are seen.
Almost everyone with an exception of the few feel that there is a need for an authority to maintain order in society. We respect authority. Most people try to please those in authoritative positions. Some admire the ones in authority and see them as achievers where as others despise them and at times enviously wish to see their downfall. Political authority is no different. It is in fact the most powerful territorial authority. In republic or constitutional democracies it’s not just the politicians who are interested in gaining power but also a section of the masses whose support matters. The democratic element in this kind of state apparatus makes it fundamentally a mob rule. The minority’s rights and opinions are disregarded by the majority and seldom granted even if fundamental basic natural human rights are clearly mentioned in the constitutions. Politicians place their strategies in accordance with the opinions and the sentiments of the majority. They propagate ideas which appeals to the majority and the ones they will willfully accept and pledge support to. This farce is conducted by exploiting crisis and conflicts which are always a part of human society to their benefit. H. L. Mencken, in prejudices, First Series (1919) made a very important remark that “The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time is made good by looting A to satisfy B. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is sort of an advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
The politicians are not alone involved in the election process. Every politician has a set of advisers, policy advisers, speech writers, campaign manager, media personals, stylists and team of political workers who will represent him to campaign in areas where they cannot personally visit. The politician’s personality plays a key role. The politician seldom answers a question in a direct and clear manner. They tend to use rhetoric and vague terms to answers most questions. If you ask a politician what will be their priority after winning the elections; they will give vague answers like: change, growth, development, equality, nation building etc. Thomas Sowell points out that “When you want to help people, you tell them the truth. When you want to help yourself, you tell them what they want to hear.” What the politicians utters is always under scrutiny by the media, public, opposition party politicians as well as their own party men with whom he has an internal competition with. The politicians have to be aggressive. He has to create opportunities by finding flaws and criticizing the opposition. Any radical view that the politicians might utter can be exploited by the media and the opposition. Such mistakes can cost the election. Many a times the politician makes a mistake and speaks out his mind. This is called as a gaffe. The media spotlight is on gaffe detection to sell more of their news. The campaign managers manage the campaign. They chalk out the places where the politician must personally visit. These areas of visits are basically the places where the politician has a good chance of winning. Their presence can boost up the confidence in the residents of that constituency thus increasing the chances of winning the electoral seat. The campaign managers also work to figure out clever campaign slogans which will attract the psyche of the voter and out do the opposition’s slogan. If you wish you could try recalling the previously held elections and the losing party’s slogan. The policy makers work on policy proposals which the politician can promise the masses. It’s not necessary that after getting elected the politician has to fulfill all the promises he made during the campaign and implement all the policy prescriptions. The political campaigns are cost heavy. The politicians not only have to win the confidence of the voters but to run his campaign he has to raise funds as well. These funds can come from the masses. However the masses rarely donate enough money that can fund the massive election campaign costs. This is where the wealthy anti-capitalist elites seeking special privileges for their interests from the state come into the picture. The politician’s policy makers work out an acceptable policy that the wealthy elites find suitable to their interest which is mostly directed in subsidizing them or bailing out their loss making/nonperforming assets or granting them coercive monopoly licenses or restricting their competition by using cleverly written entry barriers clauses or granting them highly profitable government projects. The politician gets into an agreement that after the elections he would implement the policies which helps their interest in exchange for campaign funds. Many businessmen if they find that a certain politician is most likely to win the election, approaches the politicians campaign managers themselves and donating huge amount of sum for their campaigns. This is why we see politicians are able to spend millions for their campaigns.
The voters also have their own interests. They too seek subsidies and benefits from the state. All kinds of welfare like free electricity, healthcare, education, infrastructure, homes, jobs, quotas, reservations, insurances, free meal, laws, protection, defense, wars, censorship, control of religious institutions, control of immigrants, environment, wealth equality and all other such stuff are demanded by the masses. Thomas Sowell pointed this mentality of voters who seek welfare entitlement as “One of the consequences of such notions as “entitlements” is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.” The politician whom the voters feel are more likely to address their interests is most likely to get their vote. Therefore you’ll see every politician promising a bulk load of goodies for the masses. It’s a different matter that they don’t fulfill most of them. The masses are indoctrinated since childhood to worship the state and respect authority. They have always been taught and trained to be conformist. With the psychic tendency to respect and fear authority even those who do not wish to accept certain views of the politician will still vote for them as they do not wish to be ostracized. The minorities confirms to the fate and know that they have to accept the views of the majority. Even most individuals from the masses don’t see a point in participating in the political process. They know that it’s pointless to vote and nothing much will come out of it. The cost benefit analysis shows that it is pointless for voters to be politically well informed. To stay informed voters must go through painstaking research and of data and educating themselves of both economic and political theory. They too have silently resorted to the helplessness due to the present political set up which refuses to provide any say to them but doesn’t spare them from getting subjugated and pay for the unconsented decisions that the winning party after forming the government will make.
The politicians also need celebrated individuals to recommend them. You’ll find well known artisans, authors, scientists, businessmen, professors, sportsmen, intellectuals and other well-known individuals participating in the election campaign.
Once the election is over a ritualistic oath taking swearing in ceremony will put the winning legislators in power to legislate the masses. Besides this the uniforms of government officials, their huge buildings with specific architectural designs, the political complex jargon language based clauses which they use to form laws and rules, military parades, paying respect to the flag, standing up when the national anthem is played and other such ritualistic or symbolic acts are a mean to demonstrate that they are significant, the authority and create the psychological influence towards the sanction of it.
Lord Acton famously quoted “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Power attracts evil, immoral, unethical and dangerous people from the society. Warmonger are addicted to wage war and get their kick through violence and killing. They glorify wars and consider war as the answer to most conflicts. The ideology of nationalism and patriotism will be propagandized by such bloodshed loving politicians. There are those who believe they can achieve heaven on earth. That they are men sent and selected by gods to serve humanity. They believe they must force other men and stop them from sinning. Punish those who have sinned. Set high moral standards. They believe that evil men must be eliminated or tortured so that they become good. Force for them can be used for moral correction. This is untrue. There are few criminals who change in character and nature after being jailed and tortured. As soon as they are set free they get back to their old ways. Such myths that violent punishments and laws are the only necessary means of deterrence against the criminal mind are put into our mind since childhood. This is necessary for authority to do so that we remain convinced for life that violence is the way to manage society and fear violence in our own lives. Most of us do not think of violent methods. The shopkeepers, laborers, workers, businessmen, factory owners, farmers and others do not think that they will sell their goods or get services by the use of threats and coercions. Most of us prefer peaceful cooperation of trade and commerce over violence. This is evident from the way society is naturally arranged and operates since history. It’s only certain kinds of individuals who believe in violence and they are the kind of people attracted to power as it the only way which can serve their interests. The first thing they do not respect is property rights and ownership.
The state’s higher authority seats have nearly absolute power such as the “Presidents” or “Prime Ministers”. After getting into power, power plays on their psyche. They become addicted to it. They feel they can bend the laws of nature and especially that of economics. They lose touch with reality. They tend to become more apathetic, less sensitive towards their own, extreme narcissists, aggressive and authoritarian. They urge to get more control under themselves, put themselves above the law and demand obedience from all by setting new rules and laws for them. Coercion, black mail, threats, exploitation and extortion becomes they means in time. Abuse of positions of power is a well-known fact of ruling class. The politicians either wants to loot the wealthy under the pretense of income distribution by appealing to the sentiments of the lower income classes or they will help their wealthy friends to gain more wealth by promising more economic growth to the lower income classes. Communism and socialism demands nationalization and state control of private means of production. Liberal and fascist countries gives numerous benefits monopolistic licenses, exclusive access to mineral wealth, subsidies, bailouts, tax benefits, duty exemptions and tax holidays to the wealthy elites. These tax related benefits to them helps these wealthy elites to create mega-corps. Due to tax factors being lower to negligible for them enable them to sell their goods at lower prices than their competitors who enjoy no such benefits. This is one of the major reasons why certain businessmen fund politician’s election campaigns in order to get them elected.
Not all wealthy entrepreneurs and capitalists are of this mentality. The state needs money to spend as well as politicians knows that their terms are limited. Therefore they must loot as much as possible as soon as possible. Taxing people will affect their re-election. There won’t be new funding till the next elections. Unfortunately they have the authority to legislate business and market. A legislative bill with respect to the economy serves as a great way to get more funds and bribes from the wealthy elites. There are two kinds of bills that the politicians use. One is termed as the “milker bill” and the other one is called “toll bridge bill”.
A milker bill is a type of bill which is written in a way which will alarm the business sector. It is designed in a way which sounds bad for specific sector or segment of businesses. The businessmen will then line up, lobby and bribe the politicians to stop the bill from passing. Such bills include increasing duty for certain goods, putting a quota over the quantity of goods one can import or export, put in new license and regulatory requirements which most businesses cannot meet, outright banning of goods etc. are some examples of milker bills. Once the bribes are received such bills are put off from being tabled or are defeated in the house.
A toll bridge bill is a bill which will do well for the business as well as the people. Examples of such bills are like deregulation, subsidizing the products, tax benefits to the sector, lowering or removal of duty over those goods etc. The politicians will draft the bill and inform the media that such a bill is being thought over and will be tabled soon. The people and businessmen think it will be tabled soon. When the bill is not tabled and consumers lower their consumption expecting lower priced goods to arrive soon in the future the businessmen has a problem now. The politicians on the other hand won’t table the bill until and unless some businessmen bribes to do so. These are the tricks how the state exploits businesses and the masses.
Our faith in politics over economics is one of the major reasons why we still have conflicts and scarcity. The market efficiently today provides all those goods and services which once the government said only they could provide due to the huge investments required for them. Unfortunately huge investments were made via investors on various companies which planned for projects which required huge investments. This is far more efficient way of raising the infrastructure costs than taxation. The state interventions still creates a problem for most businesses to function efficiently and serve customers requirements. Both the masses and the politicians believe that economic decisions on how society must be arranged can be taken by them, put into a policy and enforced. However the laws of economics cannot be changed by political policies. Thomas Sowell made some important observations from the economist’s point of view. He said “The first lesson of economics is scarcity: There is never enough of anything to satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.”
The system of economics is not simply concerned with production of goods and services or the optimum amount of money in the economy. It deals with the study of all human actions. Economics tells us how social phenomenon works and how we can economize and utilize scarce resources. Economy is a system where there is scarcity of resources. A system where there is infinite supply of goods like the “Garden of Eden” cannot be considered as an economy. Politicians and masses do not like economics. They consider it to be a dismissal science. It’s true that we can consider most of the mainstream economics at play and practice to be defunct and their economics as dismissal science. However economics is a science and with the correct methodology (like from the theory from Austrian school of economic thought) it’s quite effective in explaining the social world to us. There are many things which we feel is possible if we can somehow organize society and force people to behave in certain ways. Economics most of the times tells them that what they are advocating and planning to try won’t be possible. We can fantasize that if we make healthcare free we’ll get a healthy world. Such fantasizes are proposed during elections and fought on. Many of such policies are enacted as laws. The results are devastating. The basic of economics tells us that no resources are free and abundant. “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch” goes the famous saying. Economics tells us central planning is not only inefficient but impossible. These findings of economics are against the interest of politics and politicians. Economic knowledge enlightens and helps the masses to understand social happening much better. If the masses start to analyze and figure out the outcome of proposed policies as well as the promises of these politicians to check even if they are possible or plausible; that should mean the end of the political business and the ruling oligarch. Thus economic knowledge is kept away from the masses. Instead they are presented with education which seldom serves to liberate them but to keep them subjugated and dependent on the political system. The intellectuals hired as economists, consultants and policy makers are part of the state machinery. Thomas Sowell warned us about these intellectuals by stating that “Some of the biggest cases of mistaken identity are among intellectuals who have trouble remembering that they are not God” and that “too often what are called “educated” people are simply people who have been sheltered from reality for years in ivy-covered buildings. Those whose whole careers have been spent in ivy-covered buildings, insulated by tenure, can remain adolescents on into their golden retirement years”
The political system is an irresponsible system. The politician pays no price for being wrong. The policy maker’s pays no price for being wrong. The economists pay no price for being wrong. Thomas Sowell states “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” The price is paid by us. It’s we who are harmed.
The political system must be discarded at the soonest. To do so self-enlightenment by learning economics and logical reasoning is vital. System which operates on individual liberties and voluntary participation like the anarchy of market works more efficiently to address our wants. Ideas of “Agorism” and market anarchy must be practiced by us to break free off the existing system. To sum up the political system nothing can be far from the truth and facts pointed out by Thomas Sowell:
“No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems—of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind”
“The welfare state is not really about the welfare of the masses. It is about the egos of the elites.”
“If the battle for civilization comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are going to win”
“Understanding the limitations of human beings is the beginning of wisdom.”
“One of the painful signs of years of dumbed-down education is how many people are unable to make a coherent argument. They can vent their emotions, question other people’s motives, make bold assertions, and repeat slogans– anything except reason.”
Sources and credits:
Peter Schweizer Speaks at YAF Conference: http://youtu.be/oZo_CiysrMk
Thomas Sowell various quotes and political vs economic decision making: http://youtu.be/zByuQPichGY
The Psychology of Politics – Professor Glenn D Wilson http://youtu.be/sus0-3upvuA
American Military Leaders Urge President Truman not to Drop the Atomic Bomb http://www.colorado.edu/AmStudies/lewis/2010/atomicdec.htm
Serial killers and politicians share traits http://www.examiner.com/article/serial-killers-and-politicians-share-traits