Post-Election Wisdom

by Russ Roberts on November 30, 2006

in Politics

Wisdom from Arnold Kling in TCS:

We have to expect mediocrity from political leaders. They are
selected by a very unreliable process. In general, I try to avoid
contact with narcissists who spend their time pleading for money. Those
are hardly the intellectual and emotional characteristics that make
someone admirable, yet they are the traits of people who go into

Could election reforms help? None of the election reforms currently
under discussion would make much difference, in my view. I once pointed
out that in order to reproduce the degree of accountability that
existed at the time of the nation’s founding, we would need 250 states, but (a) I am not sure that would work and (b) it is not going to be tried.

The libertarian view is that private institutions, both for-profit
and non-profit, are better at problem-solving than government
institutions. Regardless of whether political leadership is wise or
mediocre, our goal should be to limit the damage that public officials
can do. Do not demand that they "solve" health care, "fix"
education, or launch a "Manhattan project" for energy independence.
Even for experts, those are impossible tasks. The harder we press our
existing leaders to address these issues, the more trouble they are
going to cause.

The belief that the problem with government is the particular
individuals in power is dangerous. The myth is that somewhere out there
we could find great leaders who could use government to solve all of
our problems. Instead, we need to be vigilant against the enlargement
of government, by either mediocre or expert leaders.


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