In Politics, Idiocy Trumps All

by Don Boudreaux on April 20, 2011

in Other People's Money, Politics

Here’s a letter to the Los Angeles Times:

Jonah Goldberg properly smacks down Mr. Megalomania, Donald Trump, for now backing away from many political positions that Trump staked out before setting his sights on the White House (“Duck, it’s The Donald!” April 19).  Alas, The Donald is only an uncommonly clownish version of the typical seeker of that high office.  H.L. Mencken’s 1940 assessment of ‘serious’ presidential candidates remains descriptive today:

“They will all promise every man, woman and child in the country whatever he, she or it wants.  They’ll all be roving the land looking for chances to make the rich poor, to remedy the irremediable, to succor the unsuccorable, to unscramble the unscrambleable, to dephlogisticate the undephlogisticable.  They will all be curing warts by saying words over them, and paying off the national debt with money no one will have to earn.  When one of them demonstrates that twice two is five, another will prove that it is six, six and a half, ten, twenty, n.  In brief, they will divest themselves from their character as sensible, candid and truthful men, and simply become candidates for office, bent only on collaring votes.  They will all know by then, even supposing that some of them don’t know it now, that votes are collared under democracy, not by talking sense but by talking nonsense, and they will apply themselves to the job with a hearty yo-heave-ho.  Most of them, before the uproar is over, will actually convince themselves.  The winner will be whoever promises the most with the least probability of delivering anything.”*

And too many Americans will devotedly and pathetically follow one or the other of these boardwalk messiahs as stray dogs follow someone who they think is carrying a sack full of sausages.

Donald J. Boudreaux

* H.L. Mencken, “The Politician” (1940), in A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Knopf, 1949), pp. 150-151.


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