Why Do Libertarians Often Run Away From Politics?
In a 1998 article in The Wall Street Journal, George Melloan wrote that many “very capable persons who would make admirable public servants are turned off” by having to raise large sums of money to run for office. Spending so much time “with begging bowl in hand,” he wrote, keeps away the people who could genuinely help.
Exploring this theme, economist Donald J. Boudreaux quoted Melloan and then explained that politicians do not beg for money. Instead, he wrote, they sell a very specific service. Namely, the “use of government’s coercive power to achieve for interest groups what these groups cannot or will not achieve peacefully on the market.”
This point is key to understanding politics as whole, as it showcases just how valuable the job of the politician is to the businessman, businesswoman, or any other particular member of an interest group with enough cash to buy political influence. Unfortunately, when the politician offers his future position in exchange for large donations, what he is offering is just to take part in legalized plunder while effectively reducing the freedoms of voters in general.
When we look at politics as the business of coercion, we understand its mechanisms and suddenly, what seems inexplicable becomes clear.
To politicians and those who support the concept, voluntary transactions found only in free markets are meaningless. What matters to them is to draft rules, policies, and statutes that limit other markets, picking winners and keeping entrepreneurs out of the loop. To them, consumption is a dirty word, so they will do all in their power to limit choice and with that, increase the costs of doing business to all industries under the sun.
The result? Less wealth, fewer jobs, fewer options, and more poverty.
To Boudreaux, this and many other characteristics often associated with politics necessarily disqualify the decent, honorable people who genuinely want to do good from being politicians. After all, honorable individuals couldn’t live with the idea that their salaries are paid through the confiscation of hard-earned money.
An honorable individual would also have a hard time being forced to come up with ways to reduce our freedoms even further, knowing full well that only the individual has a claim to his person and his property.
And last but not least, an honorable individual would see no use in selling influence, precisely because he or she does not see any human being as a subject to be ordered around.
As you can see, politics is a hard game for those who are not collectivists, and an even harder game for those who understand the virtues of the free market. And that is why it is a nearly impossible task to populate Washington with authentic lovers of liberty.