On his radio show on Thursday morning, Glenn Beck devoted the entire first hour to savagely ripping apart Chris Christie over the scandal regarding his staff intentionally creating traffic issues in order to punish a political rival. While much of the criticism from Glenn and his co-hosts Pat and Stu was technically correct (I’m sure Christie is indeed a scumbag, a progressive, and someone that any sane person should never consider voting for), they (and everyone else in the mainstream media) have missed the point entirely. Everyone is focusing entirely on what this scandal means or implies about Chris Christie. The working assumption seems to be that Christie is just abnormally evil. That this is a fluke occurrence due to a personal flaw in one specific politician.
Of course, those of us who think critically about government power in general understand that this isn’t about a personal flaw at all. This scandal is a mere symptom, and the disease is government power in general, not Chris Christie specifically. While the media focuses entirely on whether or not Chris Christie personally knew his staffers were intentionally messing up traffic, they fail to ask one simple, obvious question that should serve as the elephant in the room for any sane public policy discussion.
“Why do we live under a system where low-level partisan political appointees and faceless bureaucrats have the power to instantly and unilaterally make decisions that can absolutely wreck the lives and economic activity of hundreds of thousands of people?”
No, instead of that, MSNBC and Glenn Beck will both vigorously debate whether Chris Christie should be allowed to appoint his friends into positions of power where they can ruin people’s lives for the purposes of exacting revenge on their political enemies. Neither will bother to point out that perhaps nobody should be allowed to do this. Perhaps low-level bureaucrats shouldn’t be given the power to shut-down our major cities on a whim. Perhaps the solution to this isn’t “replace Chris Christie with someone better,” but rather “Remove the entire mechanism that is subject for easy abuse.”
Of course, they could never advocate that – because all government consists of such mechanisms that are subject to easy abuse. All the way from the President of the United States down to the desk clerk at your local DMV, the entire system is built around the notion that it’s perfectly reasonable to give power to people with zero accountability and absolutely no economic incentive to behave in a fair or rational manner. We can’t possibly start suggesting that perhaps a governor’s political aides shouldn’t be able to shut down traffic whenever they please! That might lead people to actually think about these issues! It might even lead some of them to the conclusion that we shouldn’t give any politicians any power whatsoever!
It’s not at all surprising to see these questions ignored by CNN. But for someone who calls himself a libertarian (sometimes), it’s a little jarring that the issue is never even broached. I don’t mean to pick on Beck here. He’s no worse than any other media outlet in this regard. But he’s done some good work on some other issues in the past, so my standards for him are a little bit higher.
There’s a reason that these sorts of “political corruption” scandals usually go completely ignored by libertarian-leaning outlets. Libertarians inherently understand that “politician abuses power” is a “dog bites man” story. It is common, predictable, expected, and virtually certain to happen, due to the nature of government itself. So long as we allow people to rule over others, corruption will never go away. It won’t go away when New Jersey replaces Chris Christie with a Democrat. It won’t go away if we replace Obama with Ted Cruz. It will only go away when a large enough portion of the population decides to start ignoring the wannabe dictators who presume to bark orders at us and establish a society based on peaceful cooperation and voluntary exchange.