Quotation of the Day…

by Don Boudreaux on March 15, 2015

in Politics

… is from page 283 of the 1975 HarperPerennial printing of the third (1950) edition of Joseph Schumpeter‘s brilliant and pioneering 1942 treatise, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy:

A party is not, as classical doctrine (or Edmund Burke) would have us believe, a group of men who intend to promote public welfare “upon some principle on which they are all agreed.”  This rationalization is so dangerous because it is so tempting.  For all parties will of course, at any given time, provide themselves with a stock of principles or planks and these principles or planks may be as characteristic of the party that adopts them and as important for its success as the brands of goods a department store sells are characteristic of it and important for its success.  But the department store cannot be defined in terms of its brands and a party cannot be defined in terms of its principles.  A party is a group whose members propose to act in concert in the competitive struggle for political power.

Politics is about the gaining, the maintaining, the extending, and the exercise of power.  Period.  It’s true that the world is chock-full of naive people who sincerely believe that politics is about promoting the public welfare through collective action.  Such people occasionally, if not typically, even manage to win political office.  But the chief role that such naive people play in politics is to serve as useful idiots for realistic people who pursue and hold power.  What better way to burgle your victims’ homes than for them, in their naiveté, actually to invite you in and gladly to give you the keys to their lock-boxes?  What better way to gain at your neighbors’ expense than to convince them that your regular visitations are those of a deeply caring and altruistic servant, and that your routine removal of their properties during these visitations are done only to further their, their children’s, and their neighbors’ welfare?

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