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An Open Letter to a Power-Seeker

My latest column for AIER is an open letter to a young woman – one who has experience as an entrepreneur – who’s now seeking a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Here are my concluding paragraphs:

If you don’t mind, let me offer some advice. Quit your quest for political office and continue to work as a private-sector entrepreneur.

As an entrepreneur, you work honestly and you remain honest. The money that you spend is either your own or that which is voluntarily entrusted to you. And in the private sector you’re driven to spend that money wisely. More importantly, only in the private sector can you know if your efforts to help others are really succeeding. The reason is that your efforts in the private sector are, as the economist Deirdre McCloskey describes them, “market-tested.”

In the market, you will know if you succeed at improving the lives of others if they pay you enough to continue your efforts. If people don’t pay you enough to continue your efforts, you will know that you are not succeeding at improving the lives of others. You’ll then be driven by competition to redirect your efforts such that you do wind up improving the lives of others.

As a politician, in contrast, you work dishonestly and are at high risk of becoming corrupted. If you gain political office you’ll spend, not your own money, but that of other people. And the programs on which you’ll spend these sums will mostly be ones to which Americans are compelled to submit. There is, with almost all government programs, nothing akin to a real market test. In politics the only ‘test’ is superficial popularity – your looks, your glibness, your ability to appear to be expressing substantive thoughts while in fact saying nothing substantive at all – combined with your ability and willingness to serve powerful interest groups. Under such circumstances you cannot long remain a decent human being.

Especially because you seem to be an intelligent, well-meaning, and hard-working woman, quit this undignified and soul-warping quest for political office. Use your drive, talents, and creativity not to compel other people to do as you and a coalition of other politicians command, but, instead, to entrepreneurially discover and deliver alternatives for which people express their approval both by voluntarily buying your goods or services, and by voluntarily working for you and investing in your ventures.

America has a superabundance of people lusting to exercise power over others. But we can always use another genuine entrepreneur. You are rightly proud of being one. Please, stick to being an entrepreneur. Only then will you truly help not only your fellow Californians in the 42nddistrict, but the whole of humanity.

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