Whoever gets elected president today is an accomplished liar. Lying, along with a capacity for backbiting, obfuscation, and double-dealing, are, in fact, actual job qualifications for politicians according to some deep political thinkers. If lying with sincerity is a required political skill, both major party candidates for president appear to be fully qualified to occupy the Oval Office. For example, in one whopper*, the Obama campaign deceptively asserted, “Romney backed a law that outlaws all abortions, even in cases of rape and incest.” Romney, too, has proven himself an able practitioner of the dark art of political prevarication. In Ohio two weeks ago, Romney falsely claimed that Chrysler’s Jeep division “is thinking of moving all production to China.” And let’s not forget about all those jobs the two claimed to have created at various points in their political careers.
It has been said that the first duty of a politician is to get elected to office. Unless she is elected she cannot do all the good things that she promises. However, the only the way to get elected is for her to get her hands dirty ..
.. while voters want their candidates to be open and honest, they don’t want them to be so open and honest that they alienate enough other voters that they don’t get into office where they can, allegedly, advance the public good (or at least our good) ..
Modeled on the prisoner’s dilemma, Barnes sets up a politician’s dilemma in which candidates have two choices: clarify or obfuscate ..both politicians have an incentive to obfuscate ..
However, it would be better for society if candidates clarified their positions so that voters could more clearly choose the stronger politician. But unlike prisoner’s dilemma, politician’s dilemma, while suboptimal for society, does not inevitably produce the worst collective result case ..
Since dishonesty is inherent in electoral politics, perhaps some day disgusted voters will revolt and rein in the size and scope of government. Until that happy day, the only recourse of an appalled citizenry is to throw the current crop of scoundrels out when their lying, obfuscation, and double-dealing become too egregious ..