Thursday, September 8, 2011

There Is One Born Every Minute

F.E.E. recently did a rerun on (the late) Hans F. Sennholz’ Machiavellian Politics.  You should read the whole thing – it’s not long.  Here is the first paragraph just to tempt you:

The morality of an action depends upon the motive from which we act. If we deny ourselves for the benefit of a needy person, we may experience the joys of charity. If we seek to impress our friends, we may act from ostentation and pride. If we seize income and wealth from some people and share the take with other people, we engage in Robin-Hood plunder. If we hasten to proclaim the giving to the world and expect to be rewarded with public acclaim and election, we are in politics.
Sennholz wrote this article in 1996.  It would have been just a relevant in 1976, and it will no doubt have lost nothing in this regard by 2026 – and beyond.  I met Sennholz just once, though it involved a week-long seminar in which he lectured often.
As a young man in Nazi Germany he was drafted into the Nazi war machine.  I think he said he was in Luftwaffe maintenance.  He eventually came to the U. S. and taught economics at Grove City College.  You can read a bit about him here.
He probably has some extra insight into what he is writing about here given his background.  In the article, he goes on to say:
In the footsteps of Machiavelli many American politicians seek to gain the support of the electorate by any conceivable methods. They chatter, coax, and cajole, and if this is ineffective, they pretend, deceive, and promise the world. Promises are useful things, both to keep and, when expedient, to break. Since people are taken in by appearance, politicians appear devout and loyal; yet, in political theory, it is better to be a clever winner than to be a devout loser. Indeed, many American politicians are instinctively Machiavellian, denying the relevance of morality in political affairs and holding that craft and deceit are justified in pursuing and maintaining political power.
We find ourselves in a big “political season” once again.  It is probably time to remind ourselves of what some good thinkers like Sennholz taught us about the nature of politics and politicians.  In the midst of all this – Republican debates and campaign speeches by our ‘Beloved Leader’ – keep in mind the wisdom of Dr. Sennholz:
Unfortunately, it is not in the power of government to make everyone more prosperous. Government only can raise the income of one person by taking from another. The taking and giving are not even a zero net game; they require an elaborate apparatus of transfer that may consume a large share of the taking.
As true as this is, and in spite of the fact that many realize it at some level, the politicians will keep suckering us with the promise that government will make us prosperous.  And it is sad to have to admit that most people will continue to be willing suckers, no matter how much we warn them of the consequences.


nick said...

sennholz was a Volunteer PILOt who killed us ALLIED troops without any concern

you can lie to make him out in maintenance all you want.

Kent B. True - perhaps one Harold N. Orndorff, Jr. said...

You seem to be right about that, Nick. I was recollecting. When I checked I saw you are right. In his defense, he was drafted. And I suppose it goes to show that anyone can change.