My blog contains a large number of posts. A few are included in various other publications, or as attached stories and chronicles in my emails; many more are found on loose leaves, while some are written carelessly in margins and blank spaces of my notebooks. Of the last sort most are nonsense, now often unintelligible even when legible, or half-remembered fragments. Enjoy responsibly.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Politics: A Wealthy Gentlemen’s Game?

There are those that always speak of Adam Smith when talking government, elitists, and support for candidates who believe in the “invisible hand”. These quotes and arguments all seem to miss Smith’s (2003) caveat of “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices”. Extremely wealthy businessmen have but one reason to enter politics and it is usually to extend their wealth to friends, family, or business associates. I would like to think that I’m wrong and that their philanthropic nature is what’s compelled them to work for lower pay – but I live in the real world.

Here in Michigan we have a race going for governor where one of the candidates is the son of the billionaire Amway founder, one of the top 5 campaign donators and fundraisers for his national party over the last 7 years, and has spent over 40 million dollars of his own money on this election. Now I have nothing against billionaires, but there is always something fishy when someone who owns several billion dollar corporations, an NBA basketball team, and who has been personally drug before the FCC and sanctioned for running an almost illegal pyramid scheme, decides to get into politics. Anyone with that much money and power usually only gets into government for one reason – and it’s not good.

One really has no further to look then to the fall of Rome to know from where and to what ends government corruption springs forth when the state is captured by elites who use it for their own purposes. And just like in Rome, our state is subject to the same variables of a religion overstretching to weakening the bonds of government, excessive governmental bloat, attacks by barbarians, and a general culture of corruption. Edward Gibbon, in his monumental work The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (2005), concludes that "The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsisted so long." The story itself is one of slow growth, bringing a high quality of life to a large percentage of the masses – which made them apathetic towards governance. This, in turn, allowed their politicians to do all sorts of horrible things. Couple this with a religion imposing itself through the state and you see the eventuality of most powerful governments throughout history.

Arthur Gordon once said "Some people confuse acceptance with apathy, but there's all the difference in the world. Apathy fails to distinguish between what can and what cannot be helped; acceptance makes that distinction. Apathy paralyzes the will-to-action; acceptance frees it by relieving it of impossible burdens.” These acceptances of an increase in the inherent level of government creep, especially when times are abundant, are counterbalanced by the natural tendencies towards either revolution or constant flux that delays the inevitable outcome of weight that fell Rome.

All of it reminds me of our own beginning and a specific comment from my favorite demigod who, upon leaving the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, was accosted by an anxious lady named Mrs. Powel who asked of Benjamin Franklin, "What type of government have you delegates given us" to which he replied, "A republic, if you can keep it”.

Smith, A. (2003). The Wealth of Nations. New York, NY: Bantam Classics.

Gibbon, E. (2005). The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Norwalk, CT: Easton Press.

Isaacson, W. (2003). Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

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