Politically Incorrect Guide To Politics

Politically Incorrect Guide To Politics

Are our politicians and electoral presidents all they are cracked up to be?

Following is the Transcript to the below video Tonight on 20/20 a John Stossel special.  “I promise”, “I promise”, “I promise”, “I promise”...don’t hold your breath.  Politicians can’t do most of that stuff.  They can make endless rules that backfire on you.  You hate to put it bluntly, but you’re screwed.  And squander your money on a financial mess they created.  Government was saying load more to people with no credit.  But who really gets things done.  We can move this quickly it’s ready to go.  Big government or big stars.  Brad Pitt’s doing more than the government?  Ten times more.  Will this election change anything?  The president can’t fix all the problems in your life.  Before you fall for their promises John Stossel gives you his intake, a politically incorrect guide to politics.  Now from the White House, John Stossel.

Good evening, Elizabeth Vargas is off tonight.  You excited about the election?  About how your candidate when he lives here will make America better?  People do talk about their candidate as if he’ll perform magic.  “It’s time for us to fight America.”  “Fight for what’s right for our country.”  Watching the campaign’s clear that some people are ecstatic.  “I just saw Barack Obama; he’s like my rock star.”  “Things will get done in Washington.”  “Our kids and our grandkids will have a better life.”  “Up with Obama/Biden, wake up America.”  Boy it sounds so exciting.  The politicians are going to fix America.  They’re going to give us great free health care, fix the education system, lower gas prices, keep us safe.  “I cannot wait for this man to be president.”  Barack Obama’s candidacy has inspired idol worship that’s usually lavished on rock stars.  When he gives speeches people cry, and some of his supporters say things like, “He is the one.”  The one, wait a second, one what exactly?  “He is the one, Barack Obama.” 


When Obama clinched the nomination he did sound a little as if he thought he had divine powers.  “This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal.”  “Behold his mighty hand...”; this McCain add mocked Obama for that.  But at the republican convention there was plenty of McCain worship.  “He will bring peace and stability to the United States.”  “He almost sounds like Superman.”  “When you’re running for president, you’ve got to be Superman.”  We actually think that some people can do magic.  David Bowes is executive vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute.  “Voters would have to believe that every politician is some sort of combination of Superman, Santa Claus and Mother Theresa.”  Superman because he can do anything.  “I will keep taxes low.”  “I will cut taxes.”  “To balance a federal budget.”  “We will guarantee health care for anyone who needs it.”  “Where did I put universal pre-K?”  Santa Claus because he’s going to give us things.  “Ah, there it is.”  In this campaign ad Senator Clinton even compared herself to Santa. 

It’s like we believe that when one man is chosen to be president suddenly he rises above all the rest of us.  And why are we continually disappointed in presidents?  Because they couldn’t possibly live up to the powers and the faith that we’re investing in them.  Take the promise of energy independence.  Every president since Nixon said he would end “this intolerable”, “excessive dependence on”, “foreign energy resources”.  They promise “to bring us closer to energy”, “independence for our country”, “by 1980”, “by 1985”, “in 10 years”, “by the year 2025”.  But today America is no closer to independence than we were when, “well I’m not a crook...” Nixon was president.  “But I promise you...”. 

Politicians tell us what we want to hear and we do want to believe.  It’s kind of an instinctive reaction; government should do more on health care, government should do more for children.  But a president can’t fix all the problems in your life.  It’s like that movie Dave where the president is a bad selfish man who’s then replaced by a look-alike who’s good.  The good guy replaces the bad president and he just calls in an accountant and they sit down and balance the budget and get everybody a job.  “I forgot that I was hired to do a job for you.”  If the president were a good man he’d get everybody a job, I saw it in the movie.  “Create more jobs”, “that pay well and can’t be outsourced”. 

But presidents don’t create jobs, [inaudible] do, often without any government involvement, without politicians ordering anyone about.  In fact most of life works best when you are in charge.  Here’s a thought experiment.  Consider a skating rink.  Imagine telling someone who’s never been to a skating rink that you were going to let people strap blades to their feet and then let all of them, old people, young people, good skaters, bad skaters, speed around a rink and say no you can’t do that it would be a catastrophe.  You need to plan this, you need to direct them.  I better do that, “be careful, slow down, turn right, turn left, no backwards skating”.  Something’s wrong, it’s not working.  More people have fallen.  “You speed up; you slow down, somebody pick that person up.”  Maybe I’m just not a very good president, I mean skating director.  What if we elect someone better someone more qualified; someone who knows more like an Olympic gold medallist? 

What would Brian Boitano do?  “You, don’t hold hands, increase your speed twice as fast as you’re going.”  Even the Olympian with his vastly greater knowledge can’t make the skating better by being a boss.  “You in the black right there, please move to the outer edge along the rail.”  Nobody was listening to you”.  “I know, nobody was listening because they don’t want to, I mean they want to do their own thing.”  “Yeah, it kind of ruins the fun of it, like bossing you around.  I don’t want to do it then if someone’s going to tell me what to do.”  “It’s not gonna be fun, what’s the point of coming then?”  “Kids, don’t go too fast.”  Much of life would be a drag if a leader directed everything.  And in fact most of our lives are self-directed.  Economists call it spontaneous order.  On the rink, skaters’ self-interests coincide.  They want to be free but not crash. 

We see spontaneous order in nature; schools of fish moving together, an ant colony, a flock of birds.  The flock of starlings is self-organized, there’s no leader, there’s no communication.  The Blue Angels can do pre-choreographed stuff but they couldn’t chase a plane with the precision that a flock of birds can do it.  Economist Russ Roberts points out that spontaneous order, not government guides most of life, we just don’t think about it. 

We don’t notice that there are many, many things in our life that work beautifully and smoothly as if they were organized but without an organizer.  Government sets some rules, but the buying and selling, the designing and inventing, creating, building, dancing are done by people who every second make their own decisions.  It’s the spontaneous order.  A lot of aspects of our life are like that, we take them for granted just as we take a skating rink for granted.  Some people would say the skating rink works because it’s small.  But when it’s a big place like America you need planning.  The more complex the problem the more planning you need, but it’s not planning at the top, it’s planning from the bottom up.  That’s how we got language, it’s varied and useful and beautiful. 

But people once said we need a better universal language, Esperanto.  William Shatner then made this movie in Esperanto but centrally planned language died about as quickly as the movie.  Communism lasted longer but its central planning doomed it because planners never could anticipate the myriad wants of different people.  There were constant shortages.  Soviets waited in line an average two hours every day, sometimes there were riots. 

And yet all this election season, the political class acts as if they must direct life, and when there are problems it must be politicians who solve them.  “Barack Obama can give us back our freedom, our trust...”.  And John McCain will even make kids lose wait.  “If you want to fight childhood obesity then John is your man.”  When 20/20 returns, “they got America into this mess.  Now they want to spend your money to fix it.  Maybe the government should do nothing.”  Next.