I frequently tell people not to blame politicians for the problems they see in democratic governments. Instead, I suggest that they blame the voters, because the voters are the ones who insist that politicians lie to them — if they want to be elected.
There’s a new report from a group of “former world leaders” that admits that the “war on drugs” doesn’t work. (Download the full report here if you care.) Most people among my friends will look at this and think that it means these former world leaders are just being hypocritical to notice the truth now that they’re not in power, but that would be missing the bigger point entirely.
The real point is that human beings follow incentives. If a person has political ambitions, he can’t allow himself to notice the truth about the “war on (some) drugs.” If he understands the truth, he might accidentally say the truth — and telling the truth about something this emotional with the voters will result in his defeat. When you’re part of a majoritarian system, you have an incentive to agree with the voters, not seek truth.
It’s true that politicians carry out the will of the majority — at least a form of it that’s filtered through a bizarre and unseemly process. But it’s majoritarian ignorance and emotion that is to blame for the things that get carried out. Don’t just blame the politicians. Blame the statist system that gives the majority the power to force its will on the rest of us. Just changing the names and faces of the people operating the machinery of the state isn’t going to change anything.