Only In Our Fantasies Are Politicians, As Such, Useful to Others

by Don Boudreaux on August 26, 2014

in Hubris and humility, Myths and Fallacies, Politics

Kevin Williamson points out … well, let him tell it:

President Barack Obama is spending his vacation golfing on Martha’s Vineyard. Hillary Rodham Clinton is spending her vacation in the habitual Clintonian mode, making a vulgar spectacle of herself in the Hamptons. Joe Biden, not that anybody cares, is off to Grand Teton.

Senator Rand Paul, on the other hand, is spending his vacation in Guatemala, performing eye surgeries on poor children who need care. (Eliana Johnson wrote about the trip here.) As the Washington Post points out, this is not a new thing for the senator-surgeon; on this trip, he saw two patients he’d first treated 15 years ago.

For once, the Washingtonian term “optics” is entirely apt.

Senator Paul will come out of his vacation looking pretty good. Given the political class’s endless appetite for self-serving theater, I found myself wondering why President Obama, Mrs. Clinton, or Vice President Biden did not choose to spend their vacations in a similar way, offering to put their skills and abilities to use on behalf of others. And then I realized that this was a deeply stupid question on my part.

What the hell would they do?

Unlike Senator Paul, neither the president nor the vice president nor the former secretary of state has anything that one might describe as a useful skill. That’s not quite right: They have skills that are useful . . . to themselves. As for skills that are useful to other people — you’d be hard pressed to think of one. If you were a poor family in Guatemala, which would you rather have: the services of a pretty good ophthalmologist, or those of an excellent orator?

Because humans can imagine unicorns – and because so many humans (including humans who fancy themselves to be reality-based) actually enjoy imagining unicorns and assuming that those creatures are real – many humans imagine that orations and fine, expressed intentions, in combination with twitches in voting booths and ceremonies beneath domes in capital cities, can alter reality for the better.  How fun!

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