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Philosophical, Not Political

Here’s a letter to another much-respected reader of my blog.

Mr. J___ N___

Mr. N___:

Thanks for your e-mail and for regularly reading my blog. I’m truly honored.

You’re correct that I’m not political, in the sense that I almost never express publicly a preference for one political candidate over another. One reason is that I very seldom feel favorable toward any candidate who has any real prospect of winning high political office. In the great majority of cases, I judge each such candidate to be, at best, an amoral brute – and usually, much worse. Because the most approving thing that I could ever honestly say about a candidate is that “He or she is evil, but the lesser of two,” I refrain from such commentary.

And I continue to so refrain. Contrary to your suggestion, I today did not – by favorably linking to pieces by George Will, Kimberly Strassel, and Jonah Goldberg critical of the attempt to have Congress override state-certified election results – deviate from my non-political stance.

Democracy’s benefits are commonly overestimated while its flaws are underestimated. Yet one huge genuine benefit of our constitutional democracy is that it provides for the peaceful transfer of power. For a sitting president and U.S. senators to attempt to use Congress to reject state-certified election results is simply too much to bear. That a crowd stormed the Capitol likely in response to the president’s words, while inexcusably making matters worse, at least serves as an easily understood symbol of the terrible chaos that would arise if in the future Congress becomes the arbiter of presidential elections.

I agree that mail-in and early voting create serious problems with the credibility of election results. I agree that had November’s election gone against Joe Biden the streets of American cities would have swarmed with angry, destructive mobs – mobs which would have been criticized by the media in only the most muted tones. I agree that many Democrats are just as prone as is Trump to behave in substance like a strongman. (Witness the tyrannical lockdowns ordered by Gavin Newsom and many other Democratic governors and mayors.) I agree that the media are so horribly biased against Republicans and in favor of Democrats that there now exists a dangerous and perhaps even republic-threatening double-standard.

But I cannot agree that signaling support of those who condemn the recent attempt to subvert the state-certified results of the 2020 election is political. It’s not. It’s philosophical. My support for such condemnations comes from my support for what remains of the rule of law. However little of such rule remains, and however imperfect it has always been and is today, that rule is precious. And anyone or any group treating it with such contempt as it was treated earlier this week deserves sure and strict rebuke – a fact not changed by whatever might have been earlier assaults on the rule of law by the other side.

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