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The Problem of Politics

I’m always amazed when people on the left believe there’s any such things as “for the public good” in politics.  Ilya Somin points out some important facts in that regard to Matthew Yglesias, and tells us why we don’t get politicians who are concerned for the public good:

One might still ask why the power-seekers tend to predominate over those who place a higher value on the public good. The key explanation is selection effects. A politician willing to do anything to take and hold on to power will have a crucial edge over an opponent who imperils his chances of getting elected in order to advance the public interest. The former type is likely to prevail over the latter far more often than not.

That’s a big reason I have little faith in the political process to always produce good outcomes, and consider Government to be a necessary evil.  I think Ilya is also correct in his refutation of Yglesias’ claim that standing up for the “public good” can make one a great political “hero.”   I can remember one local politician who probably thought this.  Her name was Marjorie Margoles Mesvinsky.   How many readers remember her, let alone as a hero?

Most of the great political heros we remember, Lincoln, TR, FDR, and Reagan, were very adept at power politics, and navigating the difficult maze of interest groups.

2 Responses to “The Problem of Politics”

  1. JKB says:

    “claim that standing up for the “public good” can make one a great political “hero.” ”

    I don’t know, that did wonders for Sarah Palin?

    Oh, I’m sorry, he meant “public good” that he likes.

  2. BC says:

    Somin’s response is fine as far as it goes, but frankly it treats Yglesias’ drivel far more respectfully and seriously than it deserves. This is because it springs from the basic conceit of progressivism: that the Matthew Yglesiases of the world can positively identify “the public good”, when in reality they’re just arrogant enough to believe that the rest of us should adopt their analysis of costs and benefits.

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