Submitted by James E. Miller of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada,
The sure sign of a halfwit is someone who believes a politician’s promise. They can be observed at candidate rallies with their faces beaming and their hands grasping tightly to a cardboard sign. In bars and restaurants they speak endlessly on how their preferred dictator is smarter, kinder, and cuter than the rest. In doing so, they make up for a lack of drunkenness with exuberance over the prospect of being ruled over. This mix turns the political enthusiast into a package more bothersome than either the chastising puritan or the destitute drunk.
This heap of idiocy finds its source in the promises made by public officeholders. Instead of relying on intelligence and reason to make their case, all an aspiring politico has to do is declare before a mob what he can give it in exchange for their votes. Every election hinges upon the degree that he can manipulate the public into believing his sincerity. Electoral contests are won and lost by the biggest coalition of fools who chant slogans devoid of actual meaning and purpose.
With the recent reelection of Barack Obama, there is speculation abound on how far the soon-to-be anointed king will deliver on his promised agenda. His leftist base of support is expecting an aggressive launch of statist initiatives aimed at righting some undefined injustice. Many of Obama’s detractors seriously believe he will use the Oval Office to institute a kind of socialist hell. Both are wrong. Obama’s second term will be a continuation of the centralization and consolidation of the state that has been occurring since the ratification of the Constitution. The path has already been laid out by the ruling cadre of politicians, high level bureaucrats, military generals, CEOs of banks, and the heads of politically-favored corporations. Obama’s promise of a robust American economy will not come to fruition because that was never the goal. Like all presidencies before it, the Obama presidency is there to ensure the “right” people keep having their pocket’s filled.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of young adults are becoming disillusioned with their own future and income earning potential. Many have witnessed the success of their parents and are now questioning why they aren’t experiencing the same level of achievement. In other words, they make perfect targets for political sloganeering. Through pledges for good jobs, these unemployed will easily be whipped into a frenzy of support for whichever candidate promises them a decent, salaried job. Their role as dupes has already been enshrined by the political class.
The record of unkempt campaign promises may be staggering but it has so far failed to deter a significant portion of people from participating in the electoral process. Time and time again, voters are promised an end to war, poverty, sickness, unemployment, addiction, obesity, starvation, homelessness, mental illness, crime, and violence. And with every election, each problem is exacerbated through state policies. Left to its own devices, a free, market economy has a tendency to improve living standards for all. That’s precisely why economic freedom is never granted by the state. It would make every politician, government worker, and state contractor’s perceived worth vanish overnight.
There are two types of promises that originate from a politician’s breath. The first is a starry-eyed pledge that is practically unworkable. The second is an assurance that would constitute a threat if given by a private individual. When announced, these promises are sold as a cure-all for all of society’s ills. They hardly ever come into fruition but are referred back to only if they aid in another reelection campaign.
The science of politicking is quite simple: appeal to the lowest common denominator of human life. This, most often, is the dim yearning of folks who aspire to do no more than feed themselves day by day. As long as this primitive instinct can be appeased by promise, a career in the nation’s capital is virtually guaranteed. Finding an honest politician is like searching for a virgin in a whorehouse. If you happen to stumble across one, they are always eager to give away what little integrity they have left in return for power.
The goal of the ruling class is a full blown return to feudalism. This social decaying is emboldened by the circus known as democracy where the mob votes away its own humanity for a naïve feeling of comfort. The masses have been fooled by years of unrelenting propaganda that government is, as Leo Tolstoy called it, “the representation of the citizens in the collective capacity” rather than its true designation of “one set of men banded together to oppress another set of men.” They are assured by campaigners for public office of a life that requires minimal effort, little intellectual stimulation, and no prudence whatsoever. A pol who speaks of freedom and responsibility is quickly gutted and cast aside. The mass-mind prefers to grovel at the feet of those who promise them a first class ticket to the land of plenty. In return, they receive a pittance while the more industrious of political brownnosers retain enriching privileges.
That is the true purpose of a political promise. It is a tool to maintain dominance over the herd. As long as the masses are lead to believe that success is only enabled by the state, they will cast a ballot for anyone that will grow state power to they believe is their benefit. Individual achievement in the context of laboring and serving others is belittled as being a waste of time in comparison to the sacrifice of the public sector. Politicians will pay lip service to individualism but only to point out that success is impossible without central government dictation. That way, campaign promises hold more weight and legitimacy in the eyes of voters eager to stick it to their fellow man. They are means to keep the state machine running smoothly as humanity slowly digests itself through continued warfare and destroying any incentive to save and invest for the future.
Mark Twain once wrote,
To make a pledge of any kind is to declare war against nature; for a pledge is a chain that is always clanking and reminding the wearer of it that he is not a free man.
Under normal circumstances, breaking a promise is regarded as unbecoming for any man. That is why pledges are hardly made except in instances in which they can be followed through with quickly and earnestly. Only the truly dishonest will often make promises since their frequent use has made them into a cheap currency used to solicit favors. The political class is the greatest practitioner of this tradition. It’s become a running joke in Western culture how conniving politicians can be. The fact that so many make light of the pathetic reputation shows a disdain for honest character. Even worse is that such a criminal gang is still respected by the greater public. This terrible truth ends up reflecting worse upon the latter than the former.