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How would you feel about government schooling if every teacher in the school had diametrically opposed beliefs to you?

How would you feel about being protected by a police force who thought you were the enemy?

How would you feel being forced to do business with someone who produced using methods that you deemed repugnant?

How would you feel being treated by a doctor who openly disliked you?

And so on.

Take those questions (and dozens like it) as a measure of your level of consistency on your preferred policy position. Would “progressives” still favor government schooling if 95% of the teachers were funded by the Koch Brothers in a new union and who vigorously defended their obligation to teach intelligent design? Would “conservatives” still savor the idea of a powerful government police force if suburbanites were the subject of regular profiling? And generally, what does it tell you about a political system when you care so damn much who gets the reins of power?

It tells me many things. Among them of course is that politics is not about politics – it’s about feeling good, about status signaling, about being part of something “bigger than yourself” and all of that. It tells me that Madison was right to worry about faction. It tells me that the checks and balances that were so celebrated by many generations of Americans don’t really check or balance much anymore (if they did, then it might not matter if someone as gruesome as Mr. ABC were elected). It tells me that there is a crap-load of loot to be divvied out by the political process. After all, if there were not much loot, there would not be much competition to gain access to distributing (and taking) some of it.

Voting is not virtuous. Voting is not a right. Many of you happily go to the polls today and by your actions impose large costs on many people. It is strange that such an activity seems to have obtained some moral character. You may rightly argue that voting is important, but you’ll have a hard time persuading me that it is moral. In closing, since I really am in no mood for an exegesis on voting, here are some thoughts from Thomas Sowell. I know, I know, he probably gets money from the Koch Brothers one way or another, so you don’t really have to take him seriously, but many of these are gems. HT to Aquanomics for the Sowell quotes.

  • The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.
  • 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.
  • There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.
  • 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 problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.
  • 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.
  • Weighing benefits against costs is the way most people make decisions — and the way most businesses make decisions, if they want to stay in business. Only in government is any benefit, however small, considered to be worth any cost, however large.
  • One of the common failings among honorable people is a failure to appreciate how thoroughly dishonorable some other people can be, and how dangerous it is to trust them.
  • It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
  • People who enjoy meetings should not be in charge of anything.
  • Both free speech rights and property rights belong legally to individuals, but their real function is social, to benefit vast numbers of people who do not themselves exercise these rights.
  • If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.
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6 Responses to “Do You Hope “Your Guy” Wins?”

  1. Mark says:

    This is one of your best posts. It makes me sad and angry to read this and then See the drivel on social media. This is everything wrong with the world right now

    Oh and I’m running for president, you might want to Consider writing me in, but I can’t make any promises to you, that is a promise

  2. sherlock says:

    Once a candidate says they want to be president, they already lose my vote. Isn’t that the definition of “candidate”, you may ask? Why, yes, it is.

  3. Alex says:

    The first election-related post I found through Facebook that I can actually agree with.

  4. Current Student says:

    Professor,
    I want to make a point that I think is important with regards to your checks and balances comment. I do think that our system of checks and balances is still there and is similar to what the founding fathers had envisioned. The reason to have this system of checks and balances is because people care so much about who gains power and because factions are so prevalent in societies. I think if we look at why people care so much and why factions arise through an economics lens, we can surely see that it comes to costs and benefits.
    Either way, the checks and balances that we do have make it very costly for any person to gain power by being a wing nut, that's why we see candidates in the general election begin to come towards the middle again. They also make it costly for factions to have an incredibly strong and lasting influence for the country by fragmenting powers between the different branches of government. For example, many people complain that Congress does nothing. I don't think this is true. The founding fathers wanted the Congress to be this way so that factions or certain groups wouldn't be able to continually control legislation. How? One of the ways is by looking at who the Congressmen(woman) have to answer to, the other is to see that all of the congressmen have similar views to some other congressmen while at the same time holding their own specific views, so that in the end, legislation is very hard to pass, and when it is passed it comes out with mild results, not impacting people too negatively/positively. So, the many views present automatically means there will be conflict and any laws passed will have to be ok'd by a majority of congress.
    We can also look at and talk about the powers that the Supreme Court has and that the President has and we would come to the conclusion that checks and balances are still there, and because of them, the intensity of people and factions is diminished.

    • Former Student says:

      Checks and Balances will always be under assault by those who hold power…..the struggle will never end and the problem will always be there. Simply look at the DC Judges who told POTUS that his “recess” appointment was in violation of the Constitution. I will also reach further back to the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act. Compare the way the Supreme Court handled that vs how the French Courts handled the attempt to raise the highest income tax to 70%. The French Court ruled that the law wasn’t written well, and told them to come back and try again. They did NOT re-interpret the law (As the Supreme Court did on ACA) and essentially re-write it from the bench to make it legal. I can pick many cases of presidents from both parties making unilateral decisions which do not reflect the will of the people. There should be uproar over the recent;y released DOJ memo, explaining that drone attacks on American Citizens without due process are legal and moral. What is the defintion of imminent threat? What is suspected activity? With all that said, I agree with Current Student that “Gridlock in DC” means that our goverment is functioning the way it was intended. Legislation should be difficult to pass.

  5. Dana says:

    Great post.

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