by Benjamin Marks, Economics.org.au editor-in-chief
Newspapers are always going on about SCANDAL! in politics. But they only ever focus on ridiculously minor schoolmarmish issues, comparable to typographical errors that do not alter the meaning of anything. Shallow journalists think they discredit politicians when they show them doing things that are the proper concern of a jealous wife (or significant other). And yet readers seem to think that newspapers are preserving the morals of society, as if the disgraced politician is irreplaceable and their job description will disappear when the person who happens to fill it does.
Looked at objectively, the question of whether a married man should be associating with young women, homosexual partners or convenient websites, is analogous with whether a cricketer, representing his nation, should be playing Test cricket one week and One-Day cricket the next — not to mention, heaven forfend, Twenty20. Recall the trouble Shane Warne had.
To return from our analogy, there are two common justifications given for making public politicians’ private perversions:
- “They are doing it when they should be serving the public.” This is equivalent to asking for a bit of the action yourself.
- “If a politician’s morality is questionable here, then extrapolate that elsewhere.” Stupid argument. We already know what they are doing elsewhere. They are not hiding it. Only journalists, academics and so-called think tanks are.
Mencken went a long way toward where everyone else should when he said, “Adultery is the application of democracy to love.”1 But even this doesn’t go far enough, because it ignores that little issue of consent for the participating parties.
Wanting to avoid controversy, naming names or implicating anyone, imagine a purely hypothetical situation where a politician, inexcusably ignorant of economics, supported, say, the minimum wage; which, if effective, results in compulsory unemployment. Would not this bring their character into disrepute? Should we hold them accountable for this blatant violation of liberty, productivity and justice or only for less consequential issues? Why don’t journalists focus on this? Is it too disgraceful to print?
Politicians all wish to enforce various protectionist policies, decreasing the scope of the division of labour and consequently the productivity of workers. The most serious result of this is higher prices, which victimises poor consumers most significantly.
They all plan to continue taxing innocents, forcibly expropriating money from people who would prefer to spend it elsewhere.
No ordinary criminal could go near to replicating the evil of government programs. Indeed, no politician has ever met anyone more corrupt than another politician, and they surely meet many times daily. Yet the media portray such meetings as innocent, inconsequential, and, on occasions, even improving. Before each report of such meetings, it is there that “SCANDAL” should be emblazoned and branded.
One would hope that the unemployment, drought, poor business practices, traffic, poverty and the welfare dependency that politicians encourage through subsidies and the sabotage of price signals, would undermine reputations more than some genuinely innocent and consensual meetings.
This amusing state of affairs is not unique to our time and place. Abu Ghraib might have been bad, even though it (torture) was allowed by the U.S. government, as was the far more horrific Iraq War. Everyone seems convinced of the impartiality of our justice system and the goodness of the world when they hear about some senior political figure or event being disgraced. They do not realise that what they are witnessing and drawing attention to are merely scapegoats for and sidetrackers of a far bigger problem. This is the case with every single instance of bad press ever afforded to government throughout its illustrious history. And yet each time everyone falls for the dummy and holds the decoy to account. It is just like a bullfight.
The real scandal of politics is the usual everyday political activities. Of course, many might support them and put their money towards it anyway. I am not denying this. All I am saying is that there are some who do not want to put their money to where the government forcibly takes it, and that this is where the theft is. To refuse to call this theft is to say that no government has ever been criminal, that the majority has the right to tell the minority what to do and to admit that if there are three people in a room, two people are justified in jointly killing the other, no matter whether they had written up a constitution that only the two of them signed to say that they are bound by it (not that anyone signed the Australian Constitution to say they are bound by it anyway).
The frenzy over the behaviour of politicians is meant to influence voters into making informed choices. But elections are just another government program, and so should be abolished. The benefits of elections are like the benefits of war; occasionally they might lead to a change of leaders, but in the end are almost always destructive to liberty, prosperity and civilisation. I am not a pacifist on war or elections, but I do believe that there are just elections and unjust elections and those associated with so-called parliamentary democracy are neither consensual nor representative. (For example, I never consented to be part of it, yet am still subjected to it.) Therefore, they cannot be justified. Of course, the proclaimed target of unjust wars and elections is often worth getting rid of — on both sides —, but unjust wars and elections often lead to a worse state of affairs.
In spite of all this, I do have a firm position on who we should vote for at the next election. He is the greatest living politician. He has uncompromising views on foreign policy. He is not from Australia and few think him eligible for office in this country, and he is not much more popular in his own. I am talking about the Republican from Texas; the one who wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and almost all of government.
I do not expect to find his name on any ballot paper, but I will vote for him anyway. If government is meant to be consensual and representative, then not only will my vote be considered valid, but my candidate will also win.
By the way, his name is Ron Paul. So if government is as justified as most people say it is, Congressman Paul will be the next Prime Minister of Australia, or at least my little bit of it.
It does not concern me that the candidate might not want to know anything about our country. I am not asking him to accept the candidacy or do anything at all; all I demand is that I be allowed to follow what he stands for, as I will display on my ballot and that — since government is consensual and representative and the electoral process communicates this, as everyone seems to think — I be allowed to have him win my election. If that is not democracy, then nothing is. Former Prime Minister John Howard had no problem following the policies of a clueless American; I only think it right that I be allowed to follow a smart one.
- H.L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (New York: Vintage, 1982). p. 621. ↩
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