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Still, Pinestraw for President!

This letter is to a home-schooling mom who reads my blog.  She e-mailed me, after reading this post, to express her disappointment that I don’t “engage more positively in the political process.”

Ms. Quinn Phillipson

Dear Ms. Phillipson:

Thanks for your e-mail.

I agree that the typical politician says only what he or she believes will win him or her the most votes and not what “is objectively right.”  Yet I disagree that politicians’ universal practice of telling lies and half-truths is good reason to excuse these deceptions.  I disagree with you that, because politicians’ first order of business is to get elected, I “hold politicians to unreasonably high standards.”

I don’t doubt that politicians who refuse to cater to the masses almost never win elections.  But this fact tells me, not that we should therefore tolerate the deceits routinely issued by successful politicians, but that we should strive to free ourselves from being ruled by such deceivers.

Suppose that there’s a guild of physicians who practice only quack medicine.  Further suppose that, despite their quackery, each member of this guild attracts a steady stream of patients through his or her lies and deceits. “Drink this snake oil!  It’ll cure your cancer.”  “My laying my hands upon your head while I chant a formulaic incantation will fix your broken leg!”  Would you excuse the lies and deceptions of these physicians on the grounds that nearly every member of their guild is dishonest and deceitful?

And were your child stricken with a serious illness, do you believe that your best hope for a cure would be to find amongst the members of this guild of charlatans the one who, in your estimation, is the least duplicitous or whose lies are the most comforting?  Surely not.  You’d refuse to have anything at all to do with such ‘physicians.’  For the same reason, I refuse to put any trust whatsoever in politicians, as well as refuse to stop calling them out for being the quacks, frauds, and cheats that nearly all of them are.

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


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