I advise freedom-loving and free-market-appreciating Americans (of which I am unashamedly one) to be good Tullockians about the results of yesterday’s landslide wins for the G.O.P. The Republicans who won those elections are, after all, politicians – and it is the rare politician, of whatever party, who reliably puts principle above personal interest. As a rule, politicians are untrustworthy, duplicitous, and cowardly; they are people who have an unusually powerful craving for power and fame; and the successful among them typically posses an unusual talent for camouflaging their craving for power and fame as a saintly calling to ‘serve the people.’
One of the many great traits of the late Gordon Tullock was his instinctive ability to see straight through such pretenses. Gordon’s natural reaction was to guffaw at campaign promises and political slogans, as well as at the faith that so many people, including ones who fancy themselves to be unusually intelligent, put in such promises and slogans. Gordon Tullock saw reality clearly and did his best to scrape the rose-colored tint from the lenses of those of us with naturally more-cloudy vision.
Gordon, more consistently than even his great and long-time collaborator Jim Buchanan, kept reminding us that politicians are not miracle workers, and that no political process ever miraculously transforms into wise angels the inevitably imperfect and self-interested and human beings who occupy political office . Gordon understood, like Hayek, that the only way to change public policy is to change the generally held ideas that people hold about the appropriate role of government.
All that said, Gordon was never quite as pessimistic about, or as disgusted by, the political process as I am. Gordon laughed at it; he found the absurdity of politics and its pomp amusing and often fascinating – its existence a challenging and fun intellectual puzzle – the fact that so many people are entranced by this buffoonery a mystery to unravel. In contrast, I find politics, and everything about it, to be repulsive and beneath contempt.