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Are politicians generally good people?

Cynical types view all politicians as power-hungry morally bankrupt two-faced sociopaths, while more optimistic types see them as generally good people who try their best in difficult jobs. Partisans often believe the best about their own party and the worst about the other. Others try to sidestep the question by suggesting that politicians be judged purely on their results, while others believe that good leadership requires good character. Others blame the system rather than the people.

Implications to Other Questions

Experts and Influencers

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Experts In Politics

Bill Clinton    Former President of the United States
Most the people I've known in this business, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, were good people, honest people, and they did what they thought was right. And I hope that I'll live long enough to see American politics return to vigorous debates where we argue who's right and wrong, not who's good and bad. My experience is, most ... are good people who love their country desperately. And I am profoundly grateful that for a brief period I had a chance to be one of them.
14 Jun 2004    Source

Experts In Religion

Richard Kyte    Catholic Professor
The politicians we admire from our nation's past are probably more like the politicians of the present age than we would like to admit. The "founding fathers" had more character flaws than our history books record, and today's politicians have more virtues than we read about in the press. From my own limited experience I can say that the politicians I have had the privilege of knowing have been, on the whole, among the brightest, hardest-working and sincerest people I've ever met.
06 Dec 2009    Source

Experts In Communications

Steven Barnett    Professor of Communications
Mostly Agree
We do not live in a corrupt country, we are not ruled by money-grabbing, power-hungry autocrats. And yet the notion that politicians are honest, honourable individuals doing their damnedest to make their country a better place does seem faintly odd in today's media environment. ... The corrosive effect of this continuous drip of cynicism... ...why should anyone be motivated [to be a politician] when they see only vitriol, scorn and derision as the reward for a political career?
28 Oct 2002    Source

Experts In Economics

James M. Buchanan    Nobel Laureate in Economics
We can’t improve politics by simply expecting politicians to do good. There are no interests other than those of individuals, and politicians will pursue their own interests just like anyone else, by trying to get reelected, advance their careers, and so on. This means that economists ought to stop acting as if they were advising benevolent despots. If you want to improve government, you must try to improve the rules of the game rather than the individual players.
01 Mar 2004    Source

Experts In Social Work

Mona Loeser    Social Worker
Not every politician has a narcissistic personality. But many do. They seek office for their own exaltation - not to make this a better county. They conduct themselves with disregard for law and ethics. It's hard to know who will turn out to be like this and who will not. ... Some people become leaders because they really want to make a difference in how the country functions. And some become leaders because they want the fame and power.
31 Jul 2009    Source

Experts In Economics

Robin Hanson    Economics Professor
Mostly Disagree
Senators are roughly our top hundred politicians, after all, ... who have been most selected for putting winning above other considerations. A similar critique applies to our top columnists and bloggers. The topics on which they write show a strong correlation with topics that their readers (or patrons) are likely to find engaging... Meanwhile, a vast cloud of good ideas remain neglected because they are less engaging, or even offensive, to readers (and patrons).
21 Aug 2009    Source

Tyler Cowen    Economics Professor
Mostly Disagree
Many people — especially those who become politicians — really do want fame and power and it is amazing what they will talk themselves into to get there and to stay there. They don't even want fame in the sense of being recognized, in the longer run, for having done the right thing. They want more personal influence and power now.
21 Aug 2009    Source

Experts In Media

David Simon    Creator of The Wire
Mostly Disagree
Oh, to be a state or local official in America over the next 10 to 15 years, before somebody figures out the business model... To gambol freely across the wastelands of an American city, as a local politician! It's got to be one of the great dreams in the history of American corruption.
27 Mar 2009    Source

Experts In Sociology

Gerhard Falk    Professor of Sociology
A politician is someone who knows how to collect for himself the rewards earned by others. The best example of this process is tax collection. Politicians feed on the public trough and force working people, by means of the brutal tax collectors, to give our earnings to them. ... Our politicians are aided by the groveling media in believing that they and only they exist in this world. Our politicians have no knowledge of the American people. They don’t know what a day’s work is.
01 Feb 2005    Source

Suggested Expert Quotes

Mark Twain
There is no distinctly native American criminal class save Congress.


Add Your TakeOnIt (click to expand, no login required)
0 Points      Nashhinton      06 Oct 2011      Stance on Question: Mostly Disagree
The inhabitants of a free country have every right to question the legitimacy of the authority of world leaders, because the majority of politicians who gain power or are elected into office, usually have the inclination to abuse their authority by legalizing unconstitutional laws and by preventing the citizens from living a peaceful life. All political authority and deception must be questioned to prevent tyranny and coersion.

1 Point      Benja      25 Aug 2011      General Comment