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Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

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My First Meeting with a Politician

I remember the first time I met an actual politician.

I was working in a law office in a small town in rural St. Mary’s County, Maryland, and I was youngish twentysomething. My boss was a member of one of the well-connected older families that ran the country (read: Good Ol' Boy) and so he had to go to a political fundraiser for Steny Hoyer.

Well, I had never given politics a thought in my life before then. I had read Thucydides, and so, politically, I favored Athenian democracy over Spartan communism. I had read Ayn Rand, so I favored the handsome rail road executives and atmospheric energy inventors over the wretched looters and moochers, but I never thought I would meet a Spartan or a looter in real life.

We ate a plate of chicken dinner, and Steny stood up and gave a stump speech. The speech was an eye-opener. He referred to no principles, offered no promises, spoke of no future. All he did was say he planned to loot the taxpayers and give the swag to St. Mary's County if elected.

It was like listening to a psychopath. With such innocent charm and cold realism he talked about robbing others and splitting the take with us in the room. There was no sugar coating or double-talk: he nakedly said he meant to take and take and take, and if we voted for him, we would get a cut. He didn't even try to hide his meaning.

Speech over, everyone else stood up and applauded. Even though I was the junior man at the firm, and perhaps in danger of my job, I sat there with my arms folded, and I would have been damned before I would stand and clap for this highwayman.

I was the only guy in the room who kept his seat. It might have been a meaningless gesture on my part, or a mean one, but I am glad I did it.

Oh, and he is still in office. In fact, he is the House Majority Leader. (http://www.hoyer.house.gov/)

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From the First Century by way of "a Cicero fan in Tallahassee" by way of   [Veronique de Rugy] of NRO.

Cicero still has something to teach us on fiscal policy.  Regarding the current administration's proposal to "cram down" mortgage debt, here's Cicero writing on a proposed "abolition of debts":

"Tabulae vero novae quid habent argumenti, nisi ut emas mea pecunia fundum, eum tu habeas, ego non habeam pecuniam."

This means, roughly, "What is the meaning of a 'clean slate', except that you purchase a farm with my money, that you still have the farm, but I no longer have my money?"

(From Book II of Cicero's De Officiis (On Obligations))

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