Published: 2011-10-13

It's the Incentives, Stupid

Note: This was originally posted to my Tumblr blog on 13 Oct 2011.

I sometimes wonder if people are actually as surprised as they often seem to be by the level of corruption and moral bankruptcy their "leaders" display.

Because, honestly, how? The system is set up in such a way as to encourage anti-social individuals to enter political life, so how can anyone be shocked by the fact that most politicians seem to be sociopaths?

Think about it. There exists a job in which a person can attain great wealth and power, be exalted as wise and honorable (in fact, that's the title they use for themselves), and be effectively immune from punishment for wrongdoing.

All that is required in exchange for these benefits is a willingness to not care. To not care about theft, rape, murder and all other injustices. To not care about chemicals secretly dumped on playgrounds, wars waged under false pretenses, reckless management of the economy and our resources, the list goes on.

So, what sort of person would find such an occupation appealing? Certainly not any well-balanced individual. Economics has a simple answer for us: people for whom the benefits outweigh the costs.

In short: the corrupt and morally bankrupt have far greater incentive to enter political careers because they get the most out of them. We have constructed a system in which exactly the people who should not be in charge are most likely to end up at the top.