The TownhallPolitics

Why the worst of us go into politics, and what we can do about it

by Derek Franklin  

Power attracts the corruptible. Suspect any who seek it. – Frank Herbert  

From the halls of Congress to the White House, with few exceptions, people elect the worst among us to the detriment of those they “serve.” Have you ever wondered why?  

In The Road to Serfdom (1944), Frederick Hayek argued that leaders who ascend to dominant positions in totalitarian regimes – think Stalin’s Russia or Hitler’s Germany – employ a “whatever it takes” strategy to do so. This results in the worst contender achieving victory in a “winner takes all” political contest.  

Democratic governments aren’t much different.  Due to less centralized power and fewer functions under state control, the victor gets to line their pockets and those around them. To stay in power, elected officials will consistently break the rules. Why not, when there are no psychic costs to doing so.  

Although flawed and imperfect in its origin, the Founding Fathers established the United States on the principles of federalism. Under federalism, the central authority would be a general government for general purposes. In addition, they’d have clearly defined and limited powers over commerce and defense.  When Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in 1831 the State’s invisibility moved him.    

“Nothing strikes a European traveler in the United States more than the absence of what we would call government or administration,” he remarked. “One knows that there are written laws there and sees them put into execution every day; everything is in motion around you, but the motive force is nowhere apparent.”  

However, that didn’t last long. In George Washington’s second term, his executive overreach violated the original American ideal of federalism and limited government. In modern times, that overreach has grown progressively worse.  What began as an unheard of experiment in liberty and freedom morphed into the statist society we have today.   

Statism is a political system where the state has substantial centralized control over social and economic affairs. Central planning is its tool and government officials are eager to exercise total power control of the state.   

A government of this type has members sitting in Washington, D.C. far removed from reality. It also expands through the use of executive orders and presidentially appointed czars. These czars tackle pressing issues from education and foreign policy, to healthcare, and more.  

However, this ever-growing bureaucratic monstrosity only makes things worse. Consider the economy. President Woodrow Wilson created the Federal Reserve System (the FED) in 1913. Its job was to manage the economy and lessen the prevalence of depressions.   

Since the FED’s creation, the country has experienced 18 depressions, or one every 6 years. The dollar has lost over 96% of its value as well. Stated differently, what a dollar purchased in 1914 would take $26.17 to buy today.  

Consider welfare.  Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty in 1964.  Since then, the US government spent $22 trillion dollars on anti-poverty programs (in constant 2012 dollars), with little to no progress on poverty to show for it.   

In actuality, politicians are incentivized to make sure problems persist so as to justify their existence. Meanwhile, the desire to earn profits motivates entrepreneurs.  

That entrepreneurial desire produces the best possible good or service at the lowest possible price.  In doing so, consumers gladly part with their hard earned dollars to buy the businessman’s quality products.  The business owner benefits through earned profits and the consumer benefits through their use of the good or service purchased. 

But politicians in the nation’s capital don’t run a business and, therefore, aren’t concerned with profits.  Elected officials don’t have to satisfy the consuming public with quality goods and services either.   

Rather, they foster an environment where problems persist while positioning themselves as the “strongman” who can get things done. Potentially violating their oath of office has no effect on them.  What often follows is large-scale corruption and inefficiency.  

In a real way, politicians benefit from a larger number of problems, including those that seem unsolvable. This allows elected officials to play on the “rational ignorance” of the people they represent. 

Rational ignorance is not a put down.  Rather, it refers to people who intentionally choose to remain uninformed on a topic. For them, the cost of getting the information exceeds the potential benefits.  The “worst” know this.  In fact, they count on it because it gives them more power and frees them up to implement their “plans.”  

Consider the current pandemic.  COVID-19 burst onto the scene during 2020’s first few months.  Admittedly, not much was known about the virus at that time.  Several questions about the virus needed answering.  

How lethal was it?  What age group or groups were most at risk?  How contagious might it be?  These were all valid questions that needed answers.    

The government’s response started out as a seemingly good faith effort to prevent the spread of the virus. However, over time, federal, state and local governments ignored sound medical advice in favor of expanding their powers. Because of that, constituents suffered. 

Politicians locked down cities and, in many instances, entire states. These lockdowns put thousands of small businesses permanently out of business. They also threw those at the bottom of the economic ladder out of work.  

Mask mandates were put in place all over the country despite initial guidance from Trump’s Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, discouraging their use

Worst of all, there’s New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. He required nursing homes to accept patients from New York’s overflowing hospitals even if those patients tested positive for COVID-19.  The number of avoidable deaths are still under investigation.  

Through May 12, 2021, some 597,785 died from the virus.  How many lives could have been saved if elected officials heeded the advice of the Great Barrington Declaration? The Declaration, authored by Professors Jay Bhattacharya, Sunetra Gupta and Martin Kulldorf, serves as an anti-lockdown document. It emphasized focused protection for the most vulnerable and historically acceptable health practices meant to minimize Covid deaths. 

How many more lives could have been saved if the FDA allowed cheap drugs like Ivermectin and Azithromycin to treat those infected with COVID-19? Instead, government officials caused incalculable emotional, mental, physical and economic damage.       

Throughout history, private individuals originated homegrown plans to solve society’s ills, not the government.    

In the 1940s, civil rights leader Dr. T. R. M. Howard built the Friendship Clinic from scratch. He did so together with the citizens of Mound Bayou, MS, some of the poorest in the country. The facility had a full menu of hospital services, including major and minor surgery and obstetrics

In 1909, Laurence Jones became the first black to graduate with a degree from the University of Iowa. He then migrated to Mississippi to fulfill his desire to provide an education for poor blacks in the south.   

With $1.65, Jones started a school called Piney Woods. It was on a log in the backwoods of Mississippi with one book and one student. A private individual started that school, and to this day it’s still in existence with 100 students.    

Perhaps it’s like John Lennon said: “The people are unaware. They’re not educated to realize that they have power. The system is so geared that everyone believes the government will fix everything.”    

Maybe one day we’ll realize that the power to solve today’s most pressing problems lies with us, not the government. 


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Derek Franklin


Derek Franklin is a native of Chicago, is an ordained minister and also works as a finance professional in the banking industry. He’s a small “l” libertarian who was introduced to the political philosophy through the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns of Ron Paul.

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