How Seemingly Terrible People Sleep at Night

Bear with me for a bit of a thought experiment. Let’s say I’m a politician. And we’ll start with a few assumptions:

  • I was legitimately voted into office or candidacy.
  • I am trying to do good in the world according to some arbitrary set of morals.
  • Those morals value the well-being of other people in some form.
  • Those morals value self-sacrifice.
  • I value people that I know, am similar to, or am geographically close to over others, consciously or not.

Now, when it comes time to say or do something in public that goes against my morals, I’m going to do a calculation of The Right Thing.

If another political agent or organization has told me to do The Wrong Thing in exchange for helping the people who voted for me, then it’s possible that it starts looking like The Right Thing.

If I’ve convinced myself that overall my constituents are better off with me in office than someone else, then I may do a few Wrong Things to stay in office because overall that is The Right Thing. Perhaps an agent or organization is threatening to squeeze me out of office. That would be bad for my voters!

If my voters are telling me to do what I believe is The Wrong Thing, maybe I’m wrong about what The Right Thing is. I am but a humble servant after all.

If I believe, with humility, that we are unable to understand our complex economic system and therefore are at the mercy of the Invisible Hand, then it is my duty to personally enrich myself in whatever way I can. It is my obligation to push the boundaries of regulations and use the law to my advantage so that others may enrich themselves freely in the trail that I blaze. My wealth will trickle down to other go-getters such as myself and I’ll show what is possible to those who have not accumulated any wealth themselves. We all start from a level playing field after all.

In these ways, I can say things I know are false, I can support despicable people, and I can still know I did The Right Thing at the end of the day. It is my cross to bear.

A weaker person than I would buckle under the overwhelming pressure to publicly stand up for what he or she knows is Right. A less savvy do-gooder would be tempted by the low-hanging fruit of self-preservation. It is a thankless job, but I am validated and energized by the faces of the people I serve when I see them prosper under my watch.

They know not what I do for them, for if they knew, they would feel obligated to sing my praises. They would have to feel the weight of my difficult decisions. I must work tirelessly for them, in the shadows. I must do the things they cannot admit out loud they want me to do. It is my burden.

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