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The psychology of power?
The New Yorker's Talk of the Town item on Attorney General John Ashcroft and the snow globe he liked but wasn't supposed to like reminded me of a recent Forbes article on a study of the psychology of entrepreneurs. "Statistically speaking," the article concludes its summary of the study's results, "[entrepreneurs John] Simplot and [Bill] Gates would seem to have two things in common*: They have trouble imagining failure, and they don't care what you think."
I wonder if that doesn't describe politicians, as well. It would help explain how some of them can so blatantly pander to public opinion from moment to moment and at the same time publicly deny they're doing it, for instance.
Democracy, one would like to think, should change the nature of political power — it should stay with the people, even after they elect their leaders. But maybe it just changes the means of getting power, and that's all. Perhaps the kind of people who end up in power are the kind of people who always end up in power — people who see elections simply as a means to an end, who, once they've reached that end, couldn't care less how they got there (except of course to pretend they care, so as to stay there as long as possible).
I don't really believe that (at least, not in general), but it would be an interesting study, I think.
* Of course, what any two particular people happen to have in common is almost completely insignificant, "statistically speaking." I imagine Forbes intended to make a statement about entrepreneurs in general.
October 24, 2002 11:35 AM
I think John Adams had the nature of an elected office correct. Paraphrased: "...you elected me to do what *I* thought was right." That whole tyranny of the unread-mob fear thing at work.
Personally, i'd much rather have a leader/official who relies upon his internal judgement and reasoning skills than polls and email clamour.
Now, i gotta admit, the connection between Adams' alien and sedition act and Ashcroft's probable suspension of the Bill of Rights (or, rather, key parts, not all) post Qaeda's Act-II showntell, doesn't escape me either. That's why i vote.
But, democracy's foundation rests entirely upon the vote of an office, not the office's nature. And, that's why i'd raise a gun's sight to defend my right to vote, national emergency or not.
Posted by rob adams on October 24, 2002 1:58 PM
"...you elected me to do what *I* thought was right."
Ah, but right for whom? Right for me, or right for you?
Posted by M on October 28, 2002 10:01 AM
That perspective assumes that everyone always looks out for their interests. I don't think that's the case.
Our animalistic side draws us towards selfishness, but our reasoning side (the spark of deity in the sentient types) convinces us to do what is best, not just best for our own self... Usually.
I, for one, believe people tend towards altruistic selflessness; but that experiences and fouled reasoning skills can interfere with that tendency. But, i think it's better not to make a mass generalisation of humans, to take it on case-by-case basis.
That's why some people get elected, and others never get re-elected.
Posted by rob adams on October 28, 2002 1:13 PM
That perspective assumes that everyone always looks out for their interests.
Not at all -- I'm just wondering if politicians do, or if, perhaps, they statistically tend to be like entrepreneurs, and not care what anyone else thinks, and if that furthermore might mean they're more likely to act in their own interests than in their electorates'.
Like I say, I don't really believe that that's necessarily the case; I just think it's an interesting sort of question.
Posted by M on October 28, 2002 4:28 PM
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