Gen­er­ous pols may have less al­tru­is­tic mo­tives

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - EDITORIAL PAGE -


When you hear a can­di­date or an elected politi­cian talk about uni­ver­sal health care, in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage, free col­lege tu­ition, ex­pand­ing en­ti­tle­ments, wel­fare pro­grams, or any other pol­icy where the gov­ern­ment pro­vides some fund­ing or ser­vice to the com­mu­nity, it’s easy to think about such pro­pos­als only in terms of the cit­i­zens who may ben­e­fit and not look past that to rec­og­nize who may also ben­e­fit — the same politi­cian pro­mot­ing such ini­tia­tives.

Pro­vid­ing “free” gov­ern­ment ser­vices can seem very no­ble on one side, but on the other side it is also a way for self­ish and power-hun­gry in­di­vid­u­als to win an elec­tion more eas­ily. Greedy, cor­rupt, and even evil in­di­vid­u­als seek­ing to em­power them­selves can lever­age the force of gov­ern­ment to take money from one group (i.e. the rich) and give it to oth­ers in hopes of buy­ing the lat­ter’s vote, all the while ap­pear­ing to be act­ing out of purely al­tru­is­tic mo­ti­va­tions.

When large seg­ments of the pop­u­la­tion be­come de­pen­dent on pro­grams of­fered by the gov­ern­ment, these politi­cians know that their elec­tions, and thus power, are prac­ti­cally guar­an­teed. Cit­i­zens re­liant on gov­ern­ment pro­grams are less likely to hold the politi­cians pro­vid­ing them their liveli­hood ac­count­able when they en­gage in cor­rup­tion, and this is how the civil so­ci­ety falls apart. His­tory shows that in the worst cases, tyran­nies can arise when the cit­i­zens are sub­servient to the gov­ern­ment, rather than the other way around.

Un­der­stand­ing that politi­cians may en­gage in this kind of strat­egy helps us avoid such even­tu­al­i­ties, so re­mem­ber who also stands to ben­e­fit when you see those smil­ing politi­cians promis­ing “free” stuff be­fore an elec­tion. They are giv­ing you some­thing, but they are ex­pect­ing some­thing else in re­turn — your vote.


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