Thursday, April 1, 2010

In Praise of Partisanship

Mark Harris writes in praise of partisanship in his latest column for Entertainment Weekly (don't laugh, it's one of Tyler Cowen's favorite magazines). Along the way Harris discovers public choice theory from watching Parks and Recreation. The show's heroine, Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler (not yet online) :
[...] loves the idea of elected office; she thinks ambition is cool; she has a bedrock conviction that politics itself is awesome. Sadly, her day-in, day-out decision-making is somewhat hindered by the fact that she has absolutely no coherent ideas or belief in any particular policies except the ones that might allow her to keep her office or make people like her. Leslie occasionally remembers to mouth some garbled syllables about public service and making the world a better place. Mainly though, she's just terrified of losing the gig. Also, she wants to be president.
The idea that politicians are motivated by self-interest and are primarily concerned with their next election, or that they care more about keeping their job than searching for entrepreneurial solutions to challenging problems is often dismissed as a deeply cynical view of the world. It is, however, not so far off, and it's nice to see that the show apparently throws public choice theory front and center.

As a disclaimer I should add that I am not one of the six or seven people that actually watch the show.

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