October 6, 2008

545 People

With every senator, representative and both major tickets racing to blame everyone but themselves for our societal problems (see the video of Bill O'Reilly and Barney Frank below), this column by Charley Reese is a great reminder as to who is actually to blame. Originally published in the Orlando Sentinel Star newspaper, here are a few snippets:

Politicians are the only people in the world who create problems and then campaign against them.

Have you ever wondered why, if both the Democrats and the Republicans are against deficits, we have deficits? Have you ever wondered why, if all the politicians are against inflation and high taxes, we have inflation and high taxes?

You and I don't propose a federal budget. The president does. You and I don't have the Constitutional authority to vote on appropriations. The House of Representatives does. You and I don't write the tax code. Congress does. You and I don't set fiscal policy. Congress does. You and I don't control monetary policy. The Federal Reserve Bank does.

One hundred senators, 435 congressmen, one president and nine Supreme Court justices - 545 human beings out of the 235 million - are directly, legally, morally and individually responsible for the domestic problems that plague this country.

I excluded the members of the Federal Reserve Board because that problem was created by the Congress. In 1913, Congress delegated its Constitutional duty to provide a sound currency to a federally chartered but private central bank.

I excluded all but the special interests and lobbyists for a sound reason. They have no legal authority. They have no ability to coerce a senator, a congressman or a president to do one cotton-picking thing. I don't care if they offer a politician $1 million dollars in cash. The politician has the power to accept or reject it.


The publication date of this column is unknown, but given the references to Tip O'Neill, Ronald Reagan and Lebanon, it has to be from the mid-80s. That makes it a classic, as true today as it was 25 or so year ago. And it will still be true 25 years from now.


111th Congress Election Posted by Boulder Refugee at October 6, 2008 11:37 AM

To blame it on "545 people" is inaccurate. Many thousands of people have held those offices over the nation's history who did unmeasurable damage and engaged in countless shenanigans in their day. And there's no time to spend fixing any of the old problems because the current crop is busily creating more of them. But your point is taken.

Posted by: johngalt at October 6, 2008 3:01 PM

In the end, we have to hold ourselves accountable as well. We're the ones who elect these schmucks.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at October 6, 2008 3:31 PM

I think you should reconsider blaming "ourselves." If nobody I voted against ever won office then maybe you'd have a point but since that's not the case, we all suffer at the hands of majority tyranny.

In the (once again) immortal words of RAH-

"Democracy can't work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that's all there is — so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group."

Posted by: johngalt at October 7, 2008 1:40 AM

I'm even more pessimistic. In a democracy, collective wisdom maximizes at the average of the group's wisdom. With the power of majority vote comes the power to dilute, even nullify any individual's good ideas or rational perspective.

As George Carlin said, look at the average American, and consider that half of Americans are even stupider than that!

Posted by: Perry Eidelbus at October 7, 2008 10:53 AM

ThreeSourcers off on an elitist tear -- and it's only Tuesday! I'll see your Heinlein and raise you a Hayek and Surowecki.

I think "Publius" had it right: self-determination within rigorous limits.

I dig Heinlein, jg, but that quote sounds like the faculty lounge to me. "We can't let these gun-toting, Alabama dirt farmers tell us enlightened PhD's how to live!" You want to be ruled by Mathematicians?

Posted by: jk at October 7, 2008 11:10 AM

Hey, at least he makes a distinction between peasants and animals.

Heinlein used "mathematician" to describe anyone who could calculate, plan, create, etc. and not the theoretical reality-haters your scenario suggests.

As for being "ruled" by mathematicians I remind you of another recent Heinlein citation (13th comment):

"The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire."

For those who can't otherwise tell, RAH and me are in the apparent minority who have no such desire.

And finally, dirt farmers everywhere take offense at your suggestion that they are necessarily peasants. If they can calculate how much grain to sell from the current harvest while keeping enough to both eat well and make the next planting then they are "mathematicians."

Posted by: johngalt at October 7, 2008 3:10 PM | What do you think? [6]