Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Politicians Bring Prosperity?

In a recent New York Times story about the reorganization of McCain's campaign, I found this:
"Voters don’t care about the organizational chart of our campaign," said Jill Hazelbaker, the campaign spokeswoman. "What they want to hear from John McCain is how he plans to bring about economic prosperity and secure the peace for future generations.[emphasis added]
I daresay most Americans would think that quote very unremarkable. I think it's outrageous, and displays a fundamental error.

The idea that politicians can create wealth is absurd. They help create, at best and only partially and rarely, conditions which make it possible for productive people to create goods and services for trade. Researchers who invent wearable kidneys, executives who manage oil refinery construction, and the man who runs a machine producing camera parts — these are the individuals who create prosperity.

Politicians have a valid role to play here: to create and modify legislation to protect property. They are tasked with protecting property rights by defining how those operate in specific circumstances. They have no valid role to play in creating the property in the first place, nor have they ever.

That a candidate can get away with touting a plan to create prosperity already shows how deep the problem is. That plan will get pored over with the finest of microscopes by advocates and opponents both. Its pros and cons will be scrutinized and hotly debated on hundreds of news sites and blogs. Few will challenge him for presenting one in the first place.

As usual, the basic social problems this country faces are not primarily power-lusting politicians, destructive as they are. It is that all too many are willing to hand them power they ought not have in the first place.

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