The Price of Politics

In the just concluded presidential election campaign in the United States, the candidates and their party allies spent a combined $2 billion according to a report on Reuters on November 7, 2012. Journalist Bob Woodward has published a book entitled The Price of Politics (2012). The $2 billion of spending by the presidential candidates is just the tip of the iceberg represented by the idea behind the title “The Price of Politics.”

In a New York Times review of Mr. Woodward’s book, the reviewer observes that: “As a plethora of election-year polls and surveys indicate, Americans are fed up with a deeply dysfunctional Washington paralyzed by partisan gridlock and increasingly incapable of dealing with the daunting problems facing the nation [including] . . . an inability to focus on long-term solutions instead of temporary Band-Aids.”  Quoted from ‘The Price of Politics,’ by Bob Woodward, book review by Michiko Kakutani, NY Times, September 7, 2012,

The presidential election campaign of 2012 in the United States is powerful reinforcement of a central message of CTLR (Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution), that politics is the problem, not the solution. Politics does not work to better humanity, but only to worsen human society. The time, effort, and property expended in the American political election campaign are all wasted because no good can come of it, no matter who wins.

The candidates for the Presidency did not address an underlying problem facing America: how to reform the welfare state so that it does not go bankrupt while bankrupting the American people.

The political process in America grinds along, repeats itself, and has created in the state what amounts to a tapeworm within the body of society, a tapeworm that is weakening and consuming the host body.

In the just concluded national election, as in every other national election in living memory, there were many perfectly decent people who participated actively and were committed so emotionally that they declared, and meant it, that they would be almost literally sick if their side lost. Friends and family members on opposite sides of the contest won’t speak to each other about the political election because they know if they do they will get into heated arguments which will accomplish nothing but increasing antagonism.

Winston Churchill said famously that ”Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  CTLR (Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution) offers an idea of human governance that is different and better than all forms that have been tried in the past—the elimination of coercion and the substitution of human cooperation in government.

Author Andy Andrews asked recently: “Why do the ages of our world’s greatest civilizations average around two hundred years?” There is an answer to that question, an answer that is an essential idea of this book—politics does not work. It is because politics does not work in the United States of America that our country’s governments are in the financial mess that now exists at every level, federal, state and local. Furthermore, politics has never worked in any country at any time in human history, and in pre-history as revealed by anthropology and archaeology.

A central idea of CTLR (Capitalism: The Liberal Revolution) is that a better future is coming—a future when productive people shun politics and look for ways to provide government services on a proprietary basis animated by the profit motive. Those who provide good government services will profit in the competition for the business of those who seek government services. Those who provide unsatisfactory government services will incur losses not profits and will go out of business, which is as it should be.

CTLR explores the idea of a better way of government in an introductory chapter entitled “Replacements for the Political State,” and throughout the book in chapter after chapter. Two chapters that focus on solutions to the problem of governance are

“Abundance and its Sources; Poverty and its Causes,”

And “The True Democracy of Voluntary Exchange,”

Forthcoming chapters will lay out in detail specific ideas on how permanent peace and ever-growing prosperity can be achieved without political coercion. The first step forward is the recognition that politics is not the solution, and has never been a solution at any time and any place in the history of human society.

If politics were a solution, then politics had no better opportunity to demonstrate a solution than in America–in which the political structure was animated by an attempt to create a better form of human governance for a free people. The fact that the political state in America is bankrupt financially is proof that politics does not work. If politics works, then how is it that America’s federal and local states are failing in everything that they do—social welfare, education, justice, perpetual warfare instead of peace, etc.

It is a tenet of CTLR that when, and only when, the intellectual leaders of society recognize the futility of politics—and that there is a superior alternative—they will show humanity the way forward to a far better future.

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11 Responses to The Price of Politics

  1. Well written, brief, cogent and very clear! Sadly, Only those who recognize the need to improve,and want to accept a superior mechanism, will be happy to understand this blog and even desire to apply it.

    Thanks for sending it.

    D. L. Wood

    • fgmarks says:

      It is not necessary for a multitude of people to recognize the problem. If the intellectual leaders of society recognize the problem, they will lead the way to a solution and the rest of the people will follow this leadership if the solution works.

  2. Leon Weinstein says:

    Clear, informative and as usual sharp. Good work, Fred!

  3. Jeff Lieb says:


    Personally, I despise politics. I wish there really could be a substitute for this vile process. It would take some serious convincing to get me to believe that there is some way around this monster. Aristotle claimed that politics was the “highest art”. Apparently he accepted its inevitability.


    • fgmarks says:

      Jeff: Thanks for your comment. I am glad you took the time to read the blog post. There IS a way without politics. That way is already in operation in much of American life. It is described in the introductory chapter entitled Replacements for the Political State.

      Politics will go eventually because it is destructive. The German military strategist Carl von Clausewitz said around 200 years ago that war is politics carried on by other means to compel the adversary to submit to our will. The great mathematician Jacobi said to test the truth of a proposition in algebra, invert the proposition. Applying Jacobi’s inversion idea to the Clausewitz statement, we can say that politics is war carried on by other means to compel the adversary to submit to our will.

      When one says there may be no way around politics, it is another way of saying that the state is indispensable. The state foments and carries on wars, steals from people in the name of the common good, calling it taxation, asserts the right to control the lives of people in myriad ways not necessary to the functioning of civil society; the state which produces nothing, creates nothing and improves nothing, is not indispensable. Galambos said that when people say the state is a necessary evil, they are saying evil is necessary. Evil is not necessary.

      Everything good about human society is either the achievement of remarkable individuals or the result of voluntary cooperation, or a combination of both.


  4. Jean Wall says:

    George Carlin put it succinctly:

    I have solved this political dilemma in a very direct way: I don’t vote. On Election Day, I stay home. I firmly believe that if you vote, you have no right to complain. Now, some people like to twist that around. They say, ‘If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain,’ but where’s the logic in that?

    If you vote, and you elect dishonest, incompetent politicians, and they get into office and screw everything up, you are responsible for what they have done. You voted them in. You caused the problem. You have no right to complain. I, on the other hand, who did not vote – who did not even leave the house on Election Day – am in no way responsible for what these politicians have done and have every right to complain about the mess that you created. ~ George Carlin

    • fgmarks says:

      Although George Carlin gained fame as a comedian, his statement about voting rises far above comedy and entertainment. It is quite profound.

      During the Vietnam War there was a motion picture enitled “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” The movie may have been inspired by a popular song of the time containing that phrase in its lyrics. In the film, rulers of two kingdoms were preparing for war against each other. No war occurred because no soldiers showed up to fight. Many people at the time, and long after, had bumper stickers on their cars with the statement “Suppose they gave a war and nobody came?” Those bumper stickers epitomized the widespread resentment of the state’s unpopular war against a small and distant country which presented no threat to America–a war in which hundreds of thousands of men were conscripted into the military, 58,000 American soldiers died, many more were badly wounded, and even more suffered lifelong damage due to the psychological trauma of participating in military combat. Rejection of the war was also the cause of a large exodus of military age males to Canada. Many parents of young boys declared at the time that they would take military age sons to Canada to save them from a war the parents deemed illegitimate. Even politicians recognized the damage done to the image of the state by the Vietnam War, as evidenced by a subsequent amnesty granted by the federal state to Americans who evaded military service by going to Canada. In 1977, one day after his inauguration, President Jimmy Carter fulfilled a campaign promise by offering pardons to anyone who had evaded the draft and requested one.

      Returning to George Carlin’s opinion, suppose America’s political parties held an election and very few people voted because of disillusionment and disgust with politics? Such a widespread popular boycott of an election would undermine the legitimacy of the state in the hearts and minds of people. Boycott of elections would be a major step in progress toward the transition to voluntary and proprietary self-governance through cooperation rather than rule by political force. Political voting is based on the threat of violence, that is expressed in the corollary to Clausewitz’ statement defining war: politics is war carried on by other means to compel the minority to submit to the will of the majority.

      The United States Constitution includes provisions to limit the power of the majority over the minority, because the people who created the constitution feared the tyranny of the majority. The means chosen by the writers of the Constitution did not succeed in preventing tyranny of the majority.

      It is a central premise of the book of which this blog is a part that rather than trying to restrain tyranny of the majority, the whole concept of majority political voting should be repudiated and abandoned and replaced by non-coercive governance in which people choose voluntarily the means of cooperation to protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  5. William Vetter says:

    Well said, Fred. It’s the best short description of what’s wrong that I’ve ever read. Thanks.

    • fgmarks says:

      Dear Bill: The current “fiscal cliff” news is one more example of the futility of looking to politics as a solution to anything. The argument about the fiscal cliff is another episode in the long-standing argument about the perennial federal deficits and rising debts–which are the consequence of a political state that long ago gave up trying to live within its means. Thoughtful people are scared by what they hear and see in the media about the fiscal cliff–but that is because the media stresses negativity over sober analysis.

      The fiscal cliff is a metaphor for tax increases and spending cuts that would go into effect unless Congress acts to undo what it did previously. Failure to avert going over the fiscal cliff would not mean the imminent end of the republic. The federal state would continue operating the same as it has over the past fifty years. The fiscal cliff laws were enacted by Congress to impose on itself some discipline about reducing the perennial and rising federal deficits. Now that the time has come to let those laws go into effect, neither party in Congress wants that to happen. Each party is positioning itself to blame the other if it happens. The same thing occurred last August in the argument about raising the federal debt limit. One political party said spending must be cut or they could not support an increase in the debt limit; the other party said no, taxes must be increased. In the end, just before the debt limit was to be broken, the two parties voted together to increase the debt limit, but just a little–to continue business as usual until after the November national elections. There were neither spending cuts nor tax increases. Now the debt is again approaching its supposed “limit” within less than six months after the last increase.

      The fiscal cliff is a symbol of a real problem the state needs to solve: how to keep its promises without becoming insolvent and then bankrupt. It appears likely that politicians will cooperate in steering the ship of state away from the fiscal cliff. However, if so, they will do it by postponing serious measures to deal with the long-term problem of ever-growing deficits and debt.

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