Why Are Politicians Universally Corrupt?

Dr. Rahe’s recent post on China got me thinking; why are politicians universally corrupt? If you’re a conservative like me, you probably have a fairly small circle of friends. I choose my friends based on virtue. I don’t have a single friend I wouldn’t trust with the keys to my house, my checkbook, or my wife (if I had one). Life is difficult enough; why would I willingly surround myself with thieves, liars, scalawags, bums and misanthropes? And yet, even in a democracy, we routinely elect bott…

  1. raycon and lindacon

    POWER!  Politics is corporate power.  Power is honey to the charismatic insects that run for office.  And money is the expression of personal, as opposed to corporate, power.  Hence, those who want power seek to become politicians.  It is the most direct route to power, and personal wealth, that exists.

    The Constitution of the United States of America was written by men who understood this, and created a government designed to minimize that accumulation of power.  Their design was, in effect, a means of minimizing the influence of men of low intent.

    But, the virtue of a free people was required to secure and maintain that system.  Of course, charismatic men of low intent can accomplish the accumulation of power by convincing an unvirtuous people that their greed will prevail over others and satisfy their hunger for the fruits of power vicariously.

    And then the end of our Republic.

  2. Keith

    Start with Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom.” He has a chapter devoted to why the cream does not rise to the top in politicians.

  3. EJHill

    Regardless of the political system, be it a nominal western democracy or a more closed party oligarchy, it all draws the same type of ambitious and narcissistic people.

    Take our country for example. There are 310 million of us and 537 elected federal officials. It takes quite an ego to say that you believe you should be one of just 435 in the House. It takes a larger one to think you should be one of only 100 in the Senate. What kind of self absorption does to take to run for President?

    Almost all politicians start their careers on the lowest levels and then begin what the British call “climbing the greasy poll.” It usually requires ditching ones’ core beliefs for expediency and political survival. Once you’ve started compromising to keep power what you need to do to advance and accumulate more becomes easier.

    Now, imagine what one needs to do in a more ruthless authoritarian system like communism or fascism.

  4. PHenry

    All power corrupts.  Add to that the nature of political office today, which pretty much rules out  an honest person getting elected, and you have dishonest power hungry politicians dominating the field. 

    So long as voters lap up pretty lies and shun honesty, politicians will be corrupt BS artists.  The constitution was written to take that in to account and limit their power and its effect.  We are rapidly abandoning any of those limitations in the name of security, charity, progress, you name it.  Limited government is considered too confining for the power hungry ruling class.  And the voters no longer understand, or believe in, the universal truths in the constitution. 

  5. Arahant

    The real question is, “Why have we allowed governments to have power that would attract scoundrels to politics?”  Human nature is what it is and has always been.  Individuals may change, the human race does not change much or quickly.  If power is in politics, the scalawags will go into politics.  Otherwise, they’ll be running carnivals and in rackets like artist management (See biographical information on Colonel Tom Parker.)  Oh, or being ministers, running churches, or founding religions (see L. Ron Hubbard.)

  6. Foxman

    Original sin?  Innate depravity if you are Calvinist.

  7. The Mugwump

    I’m almost tempted to run for office with the slogan “Vote for Paules; He’s Only in It for the Chicks.”

  8. Giantkiller

    Funny, that – universally corrupt.  Maybe there were, in the past, some who rose above corruption for the sake of lucre – maybe Churchill, maybe Coolidge – certainly, Washington.  But in the last 60 years?  Hmmmm.

  9. raycon and lindacon

    To remind us all, there are good men in politics.  But they are as rare as whores with integrity.

  10. EJHill
    raycon and lindacon:  But they are as rare as whores with integrity. · 1 minute ago

    Whores have integrity when compared to politicians. They at least acknowledge what they do.

  11. The Mugwump

    “Vote for Paules:  Because He Doesn’t Really Want the Job” 

  12. The Mugwump

    EJ, you gonna help me run for office?

  13. EJHill
    ~Paules: EJ, you gonna help me run for office? · 7 minutes ago

    Whatever I can do.

  14. The Mugwump

    ~Paules: EJ, you gonna help me run for office? · 7 minutes ago

    Whatever I can do. · 1 minute ago

    You’re hired.

  15. Arahant

    How did this go from the OP asking why politicians are corrupt to his running for office?  And in less than a page of posts?

  16. The Mugwump
    Arahant: How did this go from the OP asking why politicians are corrupt to his running for office?  And in less than a page of posts? · 0 minutes ago

    My mind is unusually fast at connecting dots.  

  17. Deborah Shey

    I’m going to be kinder than most of the commenters so far.  Very large egos are required when running for Federal offices,  not so much for local offices.  A personality that is idealistic,   likes to compromise, likes to  please,  and to fix or solve problems  is quite evident in politicians.  The listed personality traits except for the last two can lead to problems and eventually corruption.  I would have to say ego and compromise and pleasing are the weak links. I don’t think that politicians set out to be corrupt.  Big egos and too much compromise,  and,  the eagerness to please everyone in order to raise money leads many astray from their convictions and ideals.

  18. Sandy

    I don’t agree with your adverb, Paules,  and  I think that perhaps a more interesting question is how it is that, given the nature of human beings and the corruption available to those in political office,  we have as many upright men in office as we do.  Some of them are even quite competent.

  19. KC Mulville

    Any job in which you’re able to risk (or spend) someone else’s money is ripe for corruption.

    Notice that it doesn’t require someone to be deliberately accept bribes, or abandon moral scruples, or wallow in other vices.

    It’s just that the concepts of risk and property shouldn’t be separated. The moment you separate them, you risk someone else’s property for your own intentions, even if you think everyone else will benefit from your intentions. Normally that’s called theft.

  20. Aaron Miller
    EJHill: Regardless of the political system, be it a nominal western democracy or a more closed party oligarchy, it all draws the same type of ambitious and narcissistic people. ….

    Bingo. The core problem is that we elect, rather than select, politicians. The ideal politician is a person who is conscripted into a position he or she doesn’t want.

    In a nation of 300+ million citizens (and a few non-citizens to boot), it’s difficult for anyone without fame or fortune, or both, to gain sufficient attention and control the media narratives surrounding him. Even at the urban level, hundreds of thousands of voters must be convinced. The internet eases funding and communication challenges somewhat, but politics will also favor the ambitious.

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