Saturday, July 20, 2013

Why not politics?

I believe I have used before the words of Daniel Webster: 
There are men, in all ages, who mean to exercise power usefully; but who mean to exercise it. They mean to govern well; but they mean to govern. They promise to be kind masters; but they mean to be masters.
This (almost) sums up why I have often said I will not go into politics. I have been asked many times and by many people, some of whom I did not even know, whether I would become a politician. I have been told I should try to fix the errors I perceive in government. I have been told that my education (political science and law) should be put to good use. That platitude "be the change you wish to see in the worlds" has been thrown at me countless times.

I decline to do so.

Webster had it right, in many ways. However, I do not entirely agree with the quote. I firmly believe that most politicians go into politics because they hold a set of ideals, a goal, a belief that they can do some good for our country by being elected. They run, not to restructure or destroy our country, but because they have a vision to make our country a better place. Obviously, many politicians and people have different ideas about what makes our country "a better place." But the fact remains that I believe they generally have the same goal and generic reasons for becoming politically active.

I would be no different. I have my idea of what is good political theory. I have my idea of what makes for good policy. I have my idea of in which arenas the government should mettle and which arenas should be sacrosanct. Most importantly, I am arrogant enough to believe that I might be good at it.

When President Jefferson was first inaugurated, he said, "Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others?" This is the real reason I decline to work in politics. I do not trust myself to ignore the pull of power. This is why I believe so many of our politicians are so disliked. The exercise of power is enthralling. 

Perhaps politicians need to remember that not every problem can be solved by the government. Perhaps politicians need to remember that not every problem should be solved by the government. Perhaps politicians need to remember that electing not to use power may be the best use of the trust that voters have placed in them. Perhaps we need politicians who do not wish to use the power they have been given. Perhaps I should be a politician after all.