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A Genuinely Disgusting Business

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

Kathleen Parker rightly bemoans the silliness and idiotic passions of modern political campaigns (“Still fighting the same old culture war,” Oct. 28).  Yet it is good to remember that this condition is not unique to our times.  Writing in 1837, the American newspaper editor William Leggett observed that “Public moralists have long noticed with regret, that the political contests of this country are conducted with intemperance wholly unsuited to conflicts of reason, and decided, in a great measure, by the efforts of the worst class of people.”*


By its very nature, political office is pursued and won by a disproportionately large number of conmen, just as by its very nature each political campaign unduly amplifies the squeals of select and always overwrought idealists.  The combined effect renders silliness, duplicity, and idiotic passions as inseparable from politics as barking, sniffing, and quadrupedlism are inseparable from dogs.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* William Leggett, “The Morals of Politics,” New York Plaindealer, June 3, 1837; reprinted in William Leggett, Democratick Editorials, Lawrence H. White, ed. (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1984), p. 55.


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