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A Letter to a Political Romantic

Here’s a letter to a young woman – a student at the University of Iowa – who tells me that she reads Cafe Hayek occasionally “to see what conservatives think.”

Voters cast their ballots at University Lutheran Church of Hope polling station Tuesday in Dinkytown. The Predominantly student prescient draws heavy traffic, as well as complications with election day registration.

Ms. Erica C_____

Dear Ms. C_____:

Thanks for your e-mail.  First, I am not conservative.  I am liberal in the original and correct sense of that term.

Second, I’m afraid that I don’t share your enthusiasm for politics, be they democratic or not.  Where you “see citizens [at the polls] selecting our leaders,” I see people voting on which power-mad person will crack the whip over those same people and brand and herd them like cattle.  Where you are “inspired by candidates campaigning openly to win the election,” I am frightened to realize that one of those hubris-slathered men or women will actually come to possess such power that no man or woman is, or ever will be, fit to possess.  Where you are “charged” by the “vigorous debates” among candidates, my stomach is sickened and my intelligence is insulted by the economics-free, fact-strained, and too-often-vacuous talking (and shouting) points that pass for a serious discussion of issues.

And where you say that you “trust voters” more than I trust them, that depends.  You’re correct that I distrust people as voters, for in that capacity they largely express opinions on how other people’s (their fellow citizens’) money should be spent and on how other people’s lives should be led.  But I trust – perhaps more than you do, and certainly more than do any of the candidates – those same voters as individuals each to spend his or her own money wisely and to lead his or her life well, each according to his or her own lights, without interference or direction from any of the officious, arrogant, and venal candidates seeking power over the lives of other people.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
Martha and Nelson Getchell Chair for the Study of Free Market Capitalism at the Mercatus Center
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA 22030