David R. Henderson  

The Pelican Brief and the People's Romance

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A large percent of my vacation reading this last week has been novels, rather than than non-fiction. But even in those, I see things to blog about. One novel I just finished is John Grisham's The Pelican Brief. I won't put in spoilers, but I will say that the President and his aide don't come off looking very good, to put it mildly.

Here's what I find interesting. In the second-last sentence of the novel, only a few pages after the president and his aide have looked bad, Grisham writes, "The White House sat majestically before them." So even after seeing how corrupt the political system is, Grisham holds on to his belief in what Dan Klein has called "the people's romance." If you haven't read Klein's article, "The People's Romance: Why People Love Government (as Much as They Do)," I highly recommend it. His basic idea is that people have a romantic view of government, which causes them to overlook really how bad government is. Or, if you want to read the thumbnail on Klein's piece, read the last paragraph of my article, "The Case for Prosecuting Bush."


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (6 to date)
fundamentalist writes:

Interesting. That put libertarians in the unfortunate position of telling our best friend that the girl he thinks is a saint is in reality a hooker.

Robert Scarth writes:

fundamentalist - that's insulting to sex workers, and probably inaccurate as well, after all prostitutes are honest about taking your money and f***ing you: politicians aren't.

It would be fairer to say that Libertarians are in the position of telling our best friend that the girl he thinks is a saint and in love with him is actually stringing him along and seeing five other guys at the same time.

fundamentalist writes:

Good point, Robert.

Patrick writes:

You seem to be hanging a lot on one sentence. Buildings for high-ranking officials of all types are built to look majestic. Humans respond to status artifacts. Blame Mother Nature. When I admire the majesty of the Kremlin, I'm not turning into a Communist, I'm just being human. I react the same way to cathedrals as a radical atheist.

guthrie writes:

I have to agree with Patrick on this one... could it be that Grisham was trying to contrast the majesty of the building with the depravity of those who occupy it? And perhaps this could lead one to realize that in spite of the grandeur of the building, if it's filled with despicable people, the grandeur is worthless?

Kurbla writes:

People are capable to form groups, act collectively, build hierarchies, fight for domination or control, abandon, divide, or dissolve the groups. All these types of behaviour are common in the animal world, motivated by some emotions, rather then reasoning only. Particularly, I guess that majority of people have some love-hate emotions toward the leaders of the pack, i.e. government.

So, yes, it is not entirely impossible that motive for pro-statist claims is in some instinct, say instinct for collective action (The People Romance term is perhaps pejorative) but, it works other way around as well, and those who advocate anti-statist positions might be motivated by some other (or even same: rebellion, opportunism) instincts.


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