Quotation of the Day….

by Don Boudreaux on June 14, 2011

in Other People's Money, Politics

…from page 52 (and with original emphasis) of David Mamet’s The Secret Knowledge:

Our politicians, left and right, are, to belabor the metaphor, the wastrel son: they are free to spend, to chase fantasies, and to squander resources, for the resources are not theirs, and there is no penalty for their misuse or loss.

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Rob June 14, 2011 at 8:30 pm

So what are we to do about this? How can one help to restrain government?

Nick June 14, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Stop voting for Republicans and Democrats

Observer_Guy1 June 14, 2011 at 9:31 pm


Unfortunately, we have little choice. Libertarians will never run for office en masse, because our natural instinct would be to shut the place down and quit, and the left and the right just wouldn’t let that happen.

ArrowSmith June 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Libertarians are whackjobs anyways. Proposing to eliminate the national border and dismantle the military.

BZ June 15, 2011 at 6:56 pm

Hey! That’s not fair! We would dismantle the military first!

In all seriousness, you’re right. The immigration laws and standing federal army size of the early 1800s devised by those morons who liberated and founded this nation is whackjobby.

DaveyNC June 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Pitchforks come to mind.

Gil June 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm

In this day and age? How about shotguns and rifles?

vikingvista June 14, 2011 at 9:26 pm

Ultimately, government is restrained only by the laws of physics and the imaginations of the thugs in charge. It isn’t restrained, it collapses violently.

Rob June 14, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Somehow waiting for the onset of anarchy isn’t that appealing.

vikingvista June 15, 2011 at 2:12 am

It’s funny that you think you can change the course of government. Sorry, but the story of Monopoly has been written.

What you can do, is try do deprogram sufficient people, so that when the government does itself in, there will be hope for something better to emerge–or better, hardly anyone will notice.

yet another Dave June 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Few things are as misunderstood as anarchy.

vikingvista June 15, 2011 at 9:12 pm

And since the Internet gives us ready access to more literature on the subject than most of us could hope to read, there really is no excuse for people to comment with such crass ignorance.

Stone Glasgow June 14, 2011 at 9:54 pm

Governments are formed as a spoil of war. After a battle is won, the military rules the land and its people. It has never been any other way, and rulers who claim that they work for the people, or governments that claim to be formed by the people and for the people, are no different that the liars who proclaim that tariffs and taxes are for the good of the people, that all of their actions, all of their regulatory activities that favor one merchant over others, are for the good of the people. It is all a lie, and has always been so.

persiflage June 14, 2011 at 8:51 pm

Politicians are human beings too, I speculate, so they should respond to incentives. We need to supply the right incentives. What sort of incentives would you apply to a servant to get them to do what you, the master, wants? The threat of losing their position should be the LEAST they have to fear!

kyle8 June 14, 2011 at 10:32 pm

Maybe a new constitutional amendmant. All legislators can be personally sued for any negative effects that their policies created.

Justin P June 15, 2011 at 12:10 pm


Only way that would ever go through is by state petition. You know Congress will never allow themselves to be held accountable for their own actions.

yet another Dave June 15, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Elimination of all benefits and pensions for elected office-holders would be a good place to start.

vikingvista June 15, 2011 at 9:18 pm

The only incentive powerful enough to have a lasting effect, would be for people to have the ability to simply ignore them.

Ken Mueller June 14, 2011 at 9:12 pm

We could have a panel of ordinary people that would give them grades. Their salary for the year would depend on their grade.

Steve_0 June 15, 2011 at 12:30 am

And/or give them a budget and make them a residual claimant. Whatever is leftover is their salary. They would have a lot of people eye-balling them make the decisions between getting things done and keeping the cash.

Chucklehead June 15, 2011 at 2:58 am

“Their salary for the year would depend on their grade.”
That would be after the fact. You need something more immediate.
If you let them keep a portion of savings might work initially, but the they would increase spending so that they could cut it later.
Maybe eliminate government from the GDP calculation and pay them based on increases in GDP. Then they might enslave us all…..
How do you quantify liberty?

Marta June 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm

…and what’s so bad about bread and circuses? S.P.Q.USA, baby.

indianajim June 14, 2011 at 10:19 pm

The wastrel son comparison reminds me of Ronald Reagan’s taking exception to saying that people in government spent money like drunken sailors. RR said that this was an insult to sailors because at least the sailors were spending their own money. I’d say that the people in government are worse than the wastrel son who at least was gambling away his own family’s money that some one had given him sans the threat of violence and imprisonment that government uses to take money from us.

Sam Grove June 14, 2011 at 10:39 pm

Politicians spend as if they they had infinite resources at their command.

Greg Webb June 14, 2011 at 10:50 pm

Excellent quote! But, it is meant to stir people to action instead of just sitting back and letting things happen to you. It is now easier than ever to let the President and the Congress know that you disapprove of this and are no longer confused by their idiotic, mercantilist economic policies. It is a slow process, but, as Benjamin Franklin observed, “we’ve given you a Reoublic if you can keep it”. And that means voting and letting politicians know that you disapprove of each new unconstitutional expenditure by the federal government.

Lionel from France June 15, 2011 at 5:23 am

“there is no penalty for their misuse or loss.”

Not totally true. In a Democraty, they may not be reelected. It is up to citizens to sanction them. And this is the problem!

Shidoshi June 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Myth of the Rational Voter

vikingvista June 16, 2011 at 12:09 am

Is it rational to vote?

Lionel from France June 17, 2011 at 7:47 am

Voting is choosing. You vote every day.

vikingvista June 19, 2011 at 7:27 pm

The context here is state democracy.

Lionel from France June 17, 2011 at 7:55 am

Some see the irrationality everywhere. Do you think everyone is irrational, all the time, and on all subjects? Do you think that man is not capable of learning from mistakes and thus to evolve?

Anotherphil June 18, 2011 at 4:14 pm

Do you think that man is not capable of learning from mistakes and thus to evolve?

No, I don’t think there is such a think as “man”, or “society” or “the x community”, no matter how uniform the limited number of attributes used to define the group, individuals comprising whatever the group or abstraction are just that-individuals.

In any case, if you think “man” “evolves”, you haven’t examined the balance sheet of every so-called civilized government.

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