Image: The worst.
Gregory Parker, Guest Editorialist to The Golden Hammer
I was engaged in a pleasant conversation with a friend, and upon a pause, my friend blurted out, “how do these awful politicians get to where they are? How do all the worst people rise to the top in politics?” Now, the truth be told, my first instinct was to offer a quick response, but I thought it would be prudent to reflect on the question before a hasty answer.
While there is extensive research on the topic of ethics in politics, the focus of this article is on answering just the burning question noted above. It is also worth mentioning that the factors identified here are not a complete list and are in no particular order. Moreover, all identified factors are not required for the most diabolical people to rise to power.
Docile and Gullible Citizens
“Docile or gullible citizens have no strong convictions of their own but are prepared to accept a ready-made system of values if it is only drummed into their ears sufficiently loudly and frequently ~ F.A.Hayek.
In his 1944 groundbreaking book “The Road to Serfdom,” noted economist and philosopher F.A. Hayek sought to answer the question of why the worst rise to the top. Hayek noted that docile and gullible citizens are one of the reasons the most dreadful individuals rise to the top. Hayek understood that passive and trusting citizens have no real convictions of their own and are full of emotions, accepting of any system of values. This is especially visible around election time, where each party drums into the public’s ears vague ideas and platitudes regarding the imperfections of the other candidates, regardless of whether or not those ideas are based in truth. If the ideas are repeated regularly and enthusiastically enough, then passive and trusting citizens are easily swayed.
Further, such trusting citizens tend to rely solely on mainstream media and rumors to shape their ideas and bias. Allowing the morally narcissistic and appalling people to use said media to manipulate and alter the truth for the goal of protecting political cronyism and a perceived appearance of morality.
Docile and gullible citizens also ignore the failures of their preferred leaders. Choosing to make excuses and disregard failures, inaction, or even criminal behavior for the assumed “good of the group.” The goal of a leader should be to seek solutions. However, those seeking power are not genuinely looking for solutions, but seek to keep the problem at the forefront, as a challenge that only they can unravel. While simultaneously failing to resolve the issue. It is the docile and gullible citizens that refuse to see this hypocrisy.
Cronyism is yet another reason why the worst among us rise to the top. Cronyism is the practice of awarding jobs, contracts, or other advantages to friends, trusted colleagues, and or political allies. Unfortunately, we see this all too often at the federal and state level, with political allies receiving plum jobs and political appointments, as well as politically friendly companies receiving special subsidies, prime contracts, and tailored regulations. It is also common at the local levels of government with developers and local business people bankrolling political campaigns in exchange for city or county contracts, regulation abatements, and appraisals reductions. This type of cronyism allows the most ignorant and power-thirsty people to align with such business people, in effect becoming useful “idiots” for the more unscrupulous individuals.
Cronyism becomes more tolerable to the docile and gullible citizens when there is no real consequence for said actions. We see this in the leaders that spend more time plotting and planning ways to stay in power rather than planning solutions to problems. At the national level, the Democrats created the now-debunked Russia hoax that was driven for years, while no solutions to America’s pressing issues were ever sought. Such can also be seen in local politics as well, as the newly elected republican party chairman spends more time plotting party overthrow rather than speaking out on any issues that face local citizens.
“…an increasing tendency among modern men to imagine themselves ethical…” ~ F.A.Hayek
Moral narcissism is the appearance of ethics and demanding others to be ethical either through religion, or another personal standard, while simultaneously violating that standard. In Essence, what you believe, or say you believe is your morality, rather than the actual actions of being decent. Your intentions, not your actions, define you as a “good” person.
This principle of moral narcissism seen in the worst politicians, and their chief followers is often actually the moral corruption of “the end justifies the means.” Such public people claim that they are acting with some sort of religious or individualist moral intent. However, the hypocrisy is that their acts of moral superiority are not individualist at all. Such moral superiority lies in the collective for “the good of the whole” or the good of their limited group of supporters. Such behavior is to protect the collective group of friends, their cronyism, and or to continue to be perceived as virtuous by the docile or gullible citizens. Since said individuals believe the ends justify the means to protect their cronyism and their perceived moral appearance, there can be no limits to what such people or supporters must be prepared to do. No act to which an individual’s conscience or moral ethic must prevent.
Moral narcissism gives leaders arrogance, hubris, and the inability to see their mistakes. Ever notice some politicians or their supporters are unwilling to apologize or admit when they are wrong. Given the ends justify the means, no action, lie, or rumor is beyond the perceived moral standard, as long as the group stays in power and all outsiders are kept out. Even if the apparent outsiders have beneficial solutions, they are dismissed and rejected.
The moral narcissist points the docile and gullible toward a single enemy. We can see this at all levels of government. Local leaders point to a single person or group of people as evil. This allows followers to rally behind the moral narcissist to claim some level of perfection or standard that must be met, and their group is the only ones that are acceptable enough to fulfill that standard.
Additionally, moral narcissists continually try to correct a perceived wrong or injustice that harkens back to the past rather than pushing solutions for the future. We can see this at the national level with congressional democrats that continue to seek ways to correct the 2016 election of Donald Trump. They feel their group has been wronged by his election and the ends justify the means to make said situation right. Locally, a perceived slight against an older republican county chairman fueled a two-year-long vendetta to make that said grievance correct. No matter how many lies are told, or how many deals have to be made, the ends justify the means, to satisfy the group’s position on correcting their perceived injustice toward said chairman.
In conclusion, we can see the worst, most nefarious, people rise to the top in politics, based on three factors, 1) a docile and gullible citizenry, 2) rampant cronyism, and 3) moral narcissism. With these three factors prevalent in today’s government, to hold a purely romanticized view that such a partnership between government and “big tech’s electronic contact tracing,” will somehow be honest, reveals the gullibility stated above. It is not only conceivable to see the pitfalls and obvious unintended consequences play out, but given the recent thrust by federal, state, and local leaders to demand power and shove to the side the constitutional rights of its citizenry, this partnership will likely results in the worst of intended consequences.
Let us look at a single local example. A County Commissioner wants to remain in power, and a notable opponent steps up to run. Given that cronyism is pervasive in the county, the Commissioner’s so-called “Christian” campaign manager, seeks out the assistance of a friendly company, that is receiving funds from the county, to obtain medical and other tracking data from the opponent’s phone. This illegally obtained data is then used to smear said opponent. The Commissioners supporters push the smear narrative while simultaneously claiming their campaign is perfect, and the opponent is the one running a dirty race. I could go on, but I trust my point has been made from this example.
Greg Parker is a Conroe businessman who served two terms as a County Commissioner in Comal County, Texas.