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Friday, December 28, 2007

Are they all "selfish"?

Nate Benefield's commentary on our website today, elicited a response from inside the Capitol. We thought we'd share it with you...because the writer makes a very good point!

Nate,

I wanted to provide an alternate perspective on your article today, Principles Worth Fighting For. Realize that I understand at the outset that my viewpoint may not be the most popular one, but it is one that I have come to believe, having spent plenty of time inside our capitol.

You repeatedly attribute to our lawmakers in Harrisburg a desire to advance their own political interests or to accumulate posterity for themselves through the policies that they implement. This connotes an overtly selfish motive to all of our lawmakers which I’m not sure is entirely accurate. I think that there is a trend in politics throughout history that is being missed. It may be a small point, but I think it a valid one, that I do not believe that the majority of our lawmakers are passing public policy that is in their best interest simply because they are selfish, greedy aristocrats that want nothing more than to enslave the Commonwealth for their own personal interests. Granted, there are some that may have that motive at the heart of their legislative goals, but I do not believe that most do.

If you listen to what they say and watch their actions, they are acting out what they believe to be in the best interest of their districts and constituents. Unfortunately, what happens far too often (and I would argue has happened to elected officials and individuals in positions of power since the beginning of time) is that everyone around them treats them like a king. Having been treated like a king by everyone that they come into contact with, being told that they are the greatest thing that has ever happened to their district, and getting re-elected a time or two begins to lead those in power to the conclusion that what is in the best interest of their district is for them to be in office.

This why so many lawmakers see nothing wrong with the newsletters, PSAs and other tools that incumbents levy that inevitably end up influencing voters to re-elect them. They simply cannot fathom that anyone could possibly do a better job than them, and so it is in the best interest of the district for Joe Lawmaker to do everything possible to make sure that his tenure in the capitol lasts “to infinity, and beyond.” The overall point is that the majority of our lawmakers are not crooked, evil people. They are doing what they think is the right thing for the people that they represent. Is it right to trade a ‘yes’ vote for a bad bill in order to assure that money for a bridge comes to your district? You and I would likely argue that it is not, but when you view life through the lens that the best thing for the people of your district is you, the answer likely comes out quite different. I could ramble on and on with numerous examples of how this mentality comes into play time and again, but will you spare those as at this point in the morning I’ve had only half the required amount of caffeine for my brain to function properly and will likely cease making sense at any moment.

The point that I am trying to make is more of a quibble than an argument. It is my assessment that most elected officials ‘under the dome’ are doing what they feel is the right thing. They just feel very strongly that the right thing for their district is for them to be in office, which leads to some decisions that are peculiar to say the least.

3 comments:

Another Perspective said...

It sounds like you guys have the same conclusions but reach them with different philosophy.

Of these things, I am certain:

* 98 percent of all politicians care first and foremost about their own re-election.

* 98 percent of all politicians want to be liked within their caucus and within their district.

* 98 percent of all politicians are not “leaders” in the true sense of the word. They are “followers”. They follow polls and the pulse within their caucus, and the dictates of those elected to “leadership” positions within their caucus, using an oxymoronic sense of the word “leadership” as it is described to represent “pro temp” “majority leader” etc

* 98 percent of all politicians constantly have their eye on a higher political status: committee chairmanship, “leadership” position, higher office, etc.

The above set of four circumstances is what creates the paradigm we have to today: Not a dime’s worth of difference between Republicans and Democrats at the elected level: they quibble at the margins: how much to increase taxes by; how much to increase government by; etc.

Joe said...

Comments such as these about the gang in H-burg are the reason I value CFpolicyblog. It is educational and rounds my understanding of issues.

Stan Alekna said...

I don't accept for a minute that most politicians have the people's interest at heart. Just look at the legislative record of this General Assembly and it screams "We know what the people want and we don't care. WE will decide what they get AFTER we have done everything we can, including bribing staff members to perform campaign work, to get elected, we will throw them the remaining "crumbs" The performance of the GA for the last 3-4 years has been a total disgrace. Their's is a Chronology of Shame.

Stan Alekna