Aspiring Politicians Learn to Dissemble

Hayek’ Road to Serfdom argued that a major problem with socialism was that it encouraged the most ruthless and illiberal to rise to the top. As they find their plans untenable, they will be forced to apply force to achieve their aims, so those willing to apply such force will tend to be most successful in such systems. A problem with modern politics is that as only dissembling narcissists can succeed, politicians at all levels become such pathetic losers.

Recently in my school board voted for busing to rectify the achievement gap that results from the new Somali immigrants who cluster at certain schools. This has made certain elementary schools have lower scores than others, and so their solution is to spread the Somalis around. That this only superficially rids one metric of inequality while not actually raising Somali scores (except through the theory of osmosis), and making my little guys take a longer bus ride across town, makes me almost want to run for the school board. Today’s election in my little town consisted solely of school board elections, and it has polarized the town.

I don’t care about schools so much that I would allocate 15 hours a week to them, so I looked for someone being elected who shares my views. Unfortunately, reading their position statements, they all speak in platitudes similar to those spoken by senators and presidents, making statements that no one disagrees with.

Here’s various takes on the softball question of how they would approach the School Board Governance Policy (which is never defined):

“the idea behind governance – clearly defining the roles of the superintendent and board – is a good one. If all parties commit to transparency and accountability, this model could work….”

“Board focus should be on achieving results and maintaining direct communications with stakeholders. Policies should state what should and shouldn’t be done…”

“Every group – like the Eden Prairie School Board – needs a set of rules, bylaws, or a governance policy…”

“I support coherent governance because it provides a comprehensive and systematic way for the Eden Prairie School Board to guide and monitor operations and results of the district…”

The rest of their vision statements are so vapid one might as well just know that first and foremost they all want to be liked by everyone, and think that being trite and vague are the best ways to that end. These aspiring politicians are afraid of saying anything that people might actually disagree with, but then if everyone agrees with you, you really aren’t saying anything interesting. As George Orwell noted in his classic Politics and the English Language, the great enemy of clear language is insincerity. It’s a dominant strategy. Remember Barack Obama’s response to Rick Warren’s question as to what he thinks about abortion: ‘that’s above my pay grade.’ This was a stupid answer (he has an opinion and it would affect policy), but it probably worked out better for him than articulating his true beliefs. In a democracy the winner has to pander to a rabble–though there are better and worse among them.

This is a major reason why I prefer a smaller government, because at least businessmen pursues their own advantage more openly and honestly, whereas government workers pursue their self interest hypocritically and under false pretenses. Petty school board nominees are now aping our betters, and bringing the level of discourse down to a point where everyone is afraid of a Kinsley gaffe.

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About Eric Falkenstein 136 Articles

Eric Falkenstein is an economist who specializes in quantitative issues in finance: risk management, long/short equity investing, default modeling, etc.

Eric received his Ph.D. in Economics from Northwestern University , 1994 and his B.A. in Economics from Washington University in St. Louis, 1987

He is the author of the 2009 book Finding Alpha.

Visit: Eric Falkenstein's Website

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