Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons for the Voting Public | House of Cards Review

Netflix recently debuted season two of its original series House of Cards. Some have suggested the show reflects a deeply cynical view of politics, but Prof. Steve Horwitz argues that it is an unromantic and realistic portrayal of how the incentives politicians have in the United States can give rise to the same kind of behaviors Congressman Frank Underwood exemplifies. Prof. Horwitz also describes three lessons viewers of House of Cards can gain from the show.

  1. As a general principle, we should be very skeptical of politicians.
  2. House of Cards shows the constant backroom trading of favors among politicians, their staffers, special interests, and the occasional member of the public.
  3. Politics attracts those who are especially skilled at public relations, favor trading, and power plays, not necessarily those who best serve the public interest.

It is important to remember that politicians are just normal people seeking their own personal self-interest over anything else. If we do not have a limited government designed to keep selfish motives in check, Frank Underwood–style politics will rule the day. If we want to keep ruthless and power-hungry people from ruling our country, we need to change the incentives politicians have and reduce their power. Prof. Horwitz says, “We need a more limited government without the possibility of dealing with these kinds of special favors.” How realistic do you think the political portrait in House of Cards is? What, if anything, do you think should be done to change the political system in the United States today?