Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Anyone who wants the office is unfit to have it.

The Constitution sets some conditions before an individual can be elected as president of the United States. I want to modify those conditions. I want to add one proviso. I think any president ought to have to prove that he or she was born on Krypton.

Krypton, you may remember, is the birth planet of Superman. So why Krypton? My first response would be because it disqualifies everybody who is running -- and wouldn’t that be lovely. But my real reason is that the voters seem to want someone with super human abilities.

The public seems to think that the president ought to do just above everything. If there is a disaster the president should be grief counselor in chief. He should assure us, comfort us, cajole us, uplift us, educate us, reform us, ad infinitum. Every flaw we have he is supposed to cure.

Apparently there is nothing the president isn’t supposed to do. The Democrats are keen to get the president to centrally direct the economy. They think he can somehow magically cure all problems of poverty, joblessness, or just about any other economic problem you can imagine. Republicans seems anxious to have the president centrally plan the world. They want him to be able to reform nations, by force, that have been screwed up for generations.

One side sees the president as our therapist and nanny combined while the other side sees him as pastor and disciplinarian. Of course the more exaggerated the titles the happier the president is about them. Many people imagine him “the leader of the free world.” Try finding that job description in the Constitution.

Hillbilly Huckabee was promising to revive “our national soul” in his campaign. Hillary wants to set the goals for the nation. King George said “that when somebody hurts, government has got to move.” Unfortunately he didn’t mean move out of the way.

When you consider the job descriptions that go with the presidency today it becomes apparent that no human being can fill the job. No one is smart enough or wise enough to wield all the power that the presidency now has. That is why the Founders never gave such powers to the presidency. If the presidency were limited to the functions outlined in the Constitution almost anyone could do it, provided he or she had a basic sense of decency. The presidency was a job that a relatively average man could perform.

That is no longer the case. Now the powers of the presidency are so far beyond anything imagined by the Constitution that it acts like a magnet attracting every power-hungry, second rate politician to the job. One reason it is so difficult to find decent candidates is that the office itself is now inherently indecent -- it is a major engine of destruction and suffering, both for the United States and the world as a whole.

The nature of the office today is such that it attracts people emotionally suited to the powers offered. That means individuals who are ego maniacs, thirsty for power, authoritarian and welling to stoop to the lowest levels possible in order to grab the things they want. When the presidency offers almost unlimited powers it attracts only the most immoral of candidates. The reason the candidates are so disgusting is that the office they are seeking can only attract the worst. Power attracts the lowest common denominator.

Any man or woman of basic decency wouldn’t want to have the sort of powers that George Bush relishes. Bush is like a pig in a mud bath. He loves the powers. In fact, he loves them so much that he keeps inventing new powers for himself. Lord Acton said that “power corrupts” and he is certainly right. But power does more than that. Power also attracts the corrupt. It appeals to those individuals who lack the sort of moral restraints that allow societies to work. The accumulation of power appeals to the ruthless and the more power that is accumulated the more ruthless the politicians attracted to the job.

Numerous people have complained that King George seems oblivious to any feedback. Not only does he ignore what people has to say, he goes out of his wan to insulate himself from contrary opinions. Staff members who disagree don’t remain staff members for long. This sort of self-centeredness, however, ought to be expected. After all, what other kind of person do you think would be attracted to the position?

In his masterful The Road To Serfdom, F.A. Hayek warned that in a totalitarian society “there is little that is likely to induce men who are good by our standards to aspire to leading positions “ but “much to deter them, there will be special opportunities for the ruthless and unscrupulous....” This is a sound law of politics in my opinion.

That the United States is not entirely totalitarian does not mitigate this law. There is an inverse relationship between state power and the individual character of people operating the state. As state power increases the moral character of the individuals seeking the levers of power decreases. We have reached the stage where the unconstitutional powers acquired by the presidency are so vast that I seriously doubt any moral individual would seriously seek the office. The mere desire to be president today ought to be a warning that the candidate is not fit to hold the office. The more desperate they are for the position the lower their moral character.

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