(clarification: I’m talking about the USA here )
As a stark raving political moderate I often find myself incredibly frustrated with the tribal thinking that characterizes most of the political debate. Most of the claims by even moderate left and moderate right about politicians (and others supposedly corrupted by money concerns) are simply garbage.
Politicians are generally honest, hard working people who have sacrificed lucrative professions and wealth in favor of their public service. This is true on right and left, middle and fringes. There are reasons to fault them on many ideological grounds and debates about that are one of the great parts of our great system, but the idea that money is at the root of a politicians actions is just a nonsensical point of view. Many don’t need money anyway as they are wealthy already: Kerry, McCain, Bush, Cheney, Kennedy, etc etc.
However many more have foresaken wealth in favor of service to the country. We should honor them for that even as we might disagree aggressively with policies or ideas. We should not rant nonsensically about how they are corrupt / evil / lying / undermining the world. Leave that job to the whackos.
The funny thing is how the debate is generally so partisan in this respect. Liberals insist Cheney was a big war profiteer even as he gave his Halliburton options money to charity. Far from profiting, Cheney’s decisions cost him dearly in terms of money. As much as I never have agreed with Cheney’s massive defense spending policies or approaches to anti-terrorism I’d hardly call him corrupt. Or take Obama, who appears about as clean as you can be after years of dirt digging and conspiracy theorizing. Yet detractors rant on nonsensically as if he’s got a freezer full of cash in the Whitehouse.
Exceptions? Sure there are some, but generally the “corruption” cases in the USA are hardly the scandals many make them out to be. A favor here or there or some freebies valued at a few thousand. One does not have to condone this to understand that it represents very little systemic threat to our great system, especially because corruptions charges here are taken so seriously that you can easily end a political career with even minor transgressions.
This aversion to corruption is a very good thing, absent in many parts of the world, and it is in part what makes our system so honest and robust. Though unfortunately it does NOT make our spending efficient because as I’ve noted ad- nauseum here, political spending is NOT optimal spending and our honest, hard working politicians spend WAY TOO MUCH on way to many things.
—————- more ranting follows but the point is above ————–
When GW Bush was in power I’d argue with left wingers to make the obvious case he was not a crazy religious nutcase hell bent on the destruction of our gentle planet. Now with Obama I have to make the obvious case to right wingers that he’s not a crazed manchurian communist out to destroy western civilization as we know it.
It’s tiring to see smart people get so wrapped up in stupid ideas about how the world works and even more tiring to see how the process seems to infect people so predictably. Hardly a peep from the cultural conservatives as the Bush policies of overspending ravaged the economy but now they seem to think Obama invented deficit spending. Yet liberals, who should be crowing like crazy about how we’re starving future generations with reckless spending and absurd eco-mitigation dramas, now sit on their hands watching Obama proceed in very similar ways to GW Bush.
The standard rhetorical reply to my insistence that most pols are honest is “you are naive”, but in fact the foolish “corrupt politician” idea comes from something called “the naivete of the skeptic”, where a foolishly skeptical worldview poisons otherwise clear thinking. Being too skeptical can divert a person’s attention to review ONLY the data and analyses that support their ideas or that dismisses counter-arguments. That’s not rational, so don’t do it.