Why not to call a pox on both houses

It’s quiz time again, boys and girls!

Consider this:  You have a tree in your yard.  It’s fine and healthy, but a neighbor keeps getting drunk and running into it with his car.  Soon, you begin to worry that it might be causing lasting damage.  Do you

a)  Move your tree,
b) If he hits it again, move it again,
c) Throw up your hands, denouncing the sorry state of drivers, or
d) Try to get your neighbor off the road until he stops drinking.

It may or may not be true that all politicians are corrupt, but this observation does nothing to improve the situation we find ourselves in.  I read a blog post the other day that maintained that the real problem was that public servants should be selfless, and they’re not.  This brought to mind two observations: when I hear people criticize someone for being selfish, what they usually mean is they’re not paying enough attention to their needs; the other thing is that hardly anyone, let alone politicians, is selfless to an ideal degree.  Our elected representatives are going to have their own interests at heart; after all, don’t you?  The problem is how to structure things so that doesn’t conflict with the public interest.  Never mind that we don’t all agree with what that is.  After all, those 40 or so Tea Party congressmen were voted into office, and, by all accounts, their constituents tend to agree with their actions.

In any case, the irony is that these people are apparently acting out of principle — that is to say, out of a feeling that they are doing what the country desperately needs.  You can always reason with cynics, by convincing them what they’re doing is not in their best interests.  If someone is acting out of principle, however, forget it.

If you say the whole government is corrupt and irredeemable, you are really falling in line with the Tea Party.  If that’s what you want, say so.  If not, don’t muddy the waters and let the real perpetrators get away under the cover of cynicism.