Thursday, August 19, 2010


Gail Collins writes today about this billionaire Florida, Jeff Greene, who’s running for Senate; California’s got megabucks Meg Whitman, who wants to be governor; there’s the fabulously wealthy Michael Bloomberg in New York City, of course, not to mention the tradition that includes such deep-pockets politicos as Rockefellers, Mellons, and even George Washington, I guess, who wasn’t exactly impoverished.

I don’t get it. Why in the world would somebody with all the money in the world want to be a public servant?

If I were a billionaire, you sure wouldn’t catch me hankering after a job that requires you to work so hard and spend so much time in fluorescent-lit community centers early in the morning shaking hands with strangers and worst of all, having breakfast meetings!

I’d be traveling the world, going to yoga retreats, riding expensive hand-made bicycles, and, in general, avoiding my responsibilities altogether.

Aristotle argues in the Nichomachean Ethics that the three types of life that most people take to be the good life—pleasure, wealth, and power—are not proper conceptions of happiness. Pleasure is fleeting; wealth is merely a means to something else; and power depends too heavily on the whims of others—if your followers no longer follow you, then you’re out of luck.

It seems to me that these rich folks who aspire to public office may understand Aristotle’s point about pleasure and wealth, but they’re missing it when it comes to power. Why else would they so busily seek the approval of voters?

The cynic in me conjectures that it’s just a way for most of them to expand their empires; what better way to get richer than be involved in writing the rules that allow for more and more wealth to be acquired?

It’s easier, they say, for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to get into heaven; apparently, it’s a lot easier for them to get into Congress.


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