Stupid or Corrupt
Some of you know I moved to Utah a little over a year ago. One of the odd things about Utah is the politics here. Utah seems to have an excess of well-meaning stupid people in office. I won't name names, but let's just say that the exposure to Utah's politicians on the local level has been an eye-opener. I think Utah has more honest politicians than most states, but what they have in honesty, they tend to make up for in stupidity.
So this got me to thinking. What is it about politics that seems to select for either the corrupt or the stupid? I hope there are politicians who aren't one or the other, but I just don't see any. I've seen some who are both, though. Also, I should probably state that I'm not merely calling politicians I disagree with stupid. That's a temptation, but I find that the one's I tend to agree with most are actually the ones I consider the dumbest (which probably says something about my politics--why am I always on the side of the idiots?).
Well, I decided to take my observations as givens and see if I couldn't come up with a reason why politicians are either corrupt or dumb. The scary thing is, I think I found a reasonable explanation.
The key, as it turns out, is money. You see, we are many years past the point where we can elect people we've met, or have even heard of from friends. Our populace is too large, and our representatives too few to actually get to meet them, even through mutual acquaintances. That means that we have no way to have actually met the candidates we vote for, or even know anything about them. The only way we know anything about the people we are electing is to have them purchase time in a mass-market medium. Radio, newspapers, or television. Preferably television because that has the largest audience and the connection is closer (i.e. visual).
Thus, for a candidate to have any hope of being elected, they have to 'get their message out'. That takes money. And lots of it. Advertising isn't cheap, and effective advertising is more expensive still.
Now, I don't believe that the best funded candidates always win. That simply isn't true, or at least, it isn't supported by actual statistical analysis. However, it is true that people with no money will always lose. Period. And it is true that money does play a key role in a campaign and can make up for some differences.
So who is it who is giving these politicians money? Politicians don't have a product they can sell. They don't have a service they can market directly. That means that people have to give politicians money for other reasons. Frankly, most fund-raising happens in order to get time to visit the candidates. One of the reasons regular people can't get access to the candidates is because that access is about the only commodity politicians have to sell. If you have $10,000 you wish to part with, you can probably pick a politician of your choice and have a nice little chat.
There are some people who give money to politicians because they agree with their policies and want to support 'the cause', but I think that is actually rather rare. People just don't often put their money on the line based on altruism. That's because most altruists think that their positions are self-evident and anyone who disagrees with them is probably either dumb or corrupt :).
So why would you give money to a politician to get face-time? The only reason I can see any organization giving money to get access to a candidate is if they honestly feel that they can change the policies of a politician based on that time together. Obviously, if you were a pro-life organization, and a candidate has declared their undying devotion to pro-choice, you aren't going to waste your money trying to talk them out of it.
So what politicians are likely to change their opinions based on purchased face-time? Easy. The corrupt who will do it for the money. Or the stupid who can be easily persuaded/manipulated.
And that is how we get a profession that is either stupid or corrupt.