Gene Healy, vice president of the libertarian Cato Institute in DC, is pretty much over politics:
I have a confession to make: Even though it’s my job to write about politics, I didn’t watch a single second of the Republican or Democratic conventions — not even a YouTube clip of Clint Eastwood talking to the chair.
I’ve long found electoral politics seedy and dispiriting, but that sensibility has lately become a debilitating affliction: like being a sportswriter struck by the unhelpful epiphany that it’s silly for a grown man to write about other grown men playing a game for kids.
These days, when I tune in to ABC’s “This Week” looking for a column topic, I can’t even make it past the first commercial break. Like Peter says to the management consultant in “Office Space,” “The thing is, Bob, it’s not that I’m lazy; it’s that I just don’t care.”
Politics makes us worse because “politics is the mindkiller,” as intelligence theorist Eliezer Yudkowsky puts it. “Evolutionary psychology produces strange echoes in time,” he writes, “as adaptations continue to execute long after they cease to maximize fitness.” We gorge ourselves sick on sugar and fat, and we indulge our tribal hard-wiring by picking a political “team” and denouncing the “enemy.”
What Healy is talking about is mostly elections and the actual governing process. He cites fellow Catoites Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus, who write in their Libertarianism.org essay “Politics Make Us Worse”:
Much hash is being made over a viral video of US Marines urinating on corpses. Two of them have already been identified, and government figures including Defense Secretary Panetta and Secretary of State Clinton are already labeling this as “deplorable” and demanding there be some sort of corrective action. Harmid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, is naturally outraged over this and is thumping his chest.
Personally, I find the actions of these Marines to be disgusting, degrading, and a stain on the United States. They definitely should be punished, and I hope that happens. Little wonder people in other countries don’t like us when we do things like this.
But I’m not going to rant on about that. I have a somewhat different argument.
James Joyner of Outside the Beltway has already written an insightful post on the situation. I really could not add more to it. Instead, I want to focus on a comment made by a commentator who goes by the name “Ben Wolf.” The interesting part is thus:
You can’t take an 18 year old who just got out of high school, give him a gun and then expect him to be a paragon of nobility, virtue and cultural sensitivity.
Perhaps not be a paragon, per se, but I do think that this is wrong. Or, at least, it should be. Our eighteen year olds should be more mature and more developed, but they’re not. The reason why we can’t train and equip eighteen years old in the military and expect more dignified behavior is, I believe, a result of two generations of infantilizing teenagers in our schools and homes, because we think they are incapable of doing anything. This, I believe, is a grand mistake.