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Blupete's Weekly Commentary


May 20th, 2001.

"Politicians."

"... a good politician, under democracy, is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar. His very existence, indeed, is a standing subversion of the public good in every rational sense. He is not one who serves the common weal; he is simply one who preys upon the commonwealth. It is to the interest of all the rest of us to hold down his powers to an irreducible minimum, and to reduce his compensation to nothing; it is to his interest to augment his powers at all hazards, and to make his compensation all the traffic will bear. To argue that these aims are identical is to argue palpable nonsense. The politician, at his ideal best, never even remotely approximated in practise, is a necessary evil; at his worst he is an almost intolerable nuisance.
... I am convinced that the art and mystery they practise is essentially and incurably anti-social - that they must remain irreconcilable enemies of the common weal until the end of time.
... A professional soldier, regarded realistically, is much worse than a professional politician, for he is a professional murderer and kidnaper, whereas the politician is only a professional sharper and sneak-thief. ... I pass over the journalist delicately; the time has not come to turn State's evidence. Suffice it to say that he, too, would probably wither under a stiff cross-examination. If he is no murderer, like the soldier, then he is at least a sharper and swindler, like the politician." (Mencken, Selected Prejudices.)

And, again, Mencken:

"Perhaps the most valuable asset that any man can have in this world is a naturally superior air, a talent for sniffishness and reserve. The generality of men are always greatly impressed by it, and accept it freely as a proof of genuine merit. One needs but disdain them to gain their respect. Their congenial stupidity and timorousness make them turn to any leader who offers, and the sign of leadership that they recognize most readily is that which shows itself in external manner?"

And, now, Arthur Seldon:

"A main element [of political self-interest] is described as 'log-rolling' the mutual aid between politicians who support one another's self-interested projects without regard for the eventual damaging effects on the citizenry of all their projects as a whole. Other elements have been described, significantly, if sometimes cynically, as 'pensioneering', the 'vote motive' ..., collusion, jobbery and worse. "Politicians', said Professor Mitchell, 'live by stratagem and tactics. Although their world is a monopoly, it hardly brings a quiet life... they must "wheel and deal", conceal, dissemble, lie, exaggerate and bluster... They conduct the weighty affairs of state... without a supportive ethical setting for efficient trading'.
... ambitious politicians with no convictions will be tempted to prolong it [centralization of government]. Conservatives have been hardly less guilty than socialists. The obvious solution now is to limit the power of all politicians to the essential minimum. Public choice indicates constitutional disciplines on politicians to inhibit their natural proclivities." [Capitalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991), p. 163.]

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Peter Landry

May, 2001 (2011)