It’s Always Sunny In Government?

Peter Jaworski,

Release Date
September 4, 2014


Democracy and Voting

With great power comes great responsibility. But what happens when those in power are no longer responsible enough to wield it? From our ever-increasing debt to the chaos of Ferguson, MO, it’s no surprise that people with power end up abusing it. Look no further than ‘The Gang’ from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia; each time they’re presented with even a modicum of authority, all hell breaks loose. While the show is clearly a comedy, its underlying themes speak to something much darker. Dr. Peter Jaworski of Georgetown University breaks down the three major ways politics is a dirty game – and offers two easy solutions for fixing the system. And it’s not the DENNIS System.

Read about the men who created public choice theory: – James Buchanan – Gordon Tullock
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“Hey Andrew, it’s just some jerk getting into office so he can get out for the pay day. You have to be a real low-life-piece-of-s**t to get involved in politics.”
The fact is “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” can help us understand why politics makes us feel so – dirty – in three major ways, but don’t take it from me.
“Yeah, we want to vote on things now, okay. We want a democracy.”
“Haha, well that ain’t gonna work!”
Even if a politician or bureaucrat originally took the job because they wanted to serve the greater good, the day to day realities of politics steer them towards really bad behavior. The incentives of office push politicians to act in their own self-interest, and against the public.
Wether that means flip-flopping to get elected.
“If I hear one more flip-flop outta you dude I’m going to throw up in my mouth.”
Lining their own pocket with public funds. Giving kickbacks and million dollar favors to friends and family on the taxpayer dime. Or just making their own job easier and screwing around.
In another episode of always sunny, Frank buys a cop car to park in front of the bar to cut down on crime, and it goes about as well as you can expect.
“Why are we stopped?” “It’s a red light” “We’re in a cop car!” “Yeah, we’re in a cop car, dude!” “Maker see!”
“You just go over there and get us a couple of those tasty dogs.”
“Yeah, okay okay, let me see what I can do, huh”
“Okay” “Okay”
“Holy s**t, that actually worked!”
“These uniforms are going to pay for themselves ten times over!”
You know, when there aren’t meaningful consequences for bad behavior, and being a violent jerk can get you big rewards, we shouldn’t be surprised when violent jerks become way more common.
Okay, here’s some simple math. You’re more likely to win a major lottery, or be struck by lightning, than change the outcome of an election with your vote. Knowing this, some scholars argue that it’s totally rational to remain uniformed about politics.
“How does a self-sustaining economy work?”
“I don’t understand how the US economy works much less some sort of self-sustaining one. I don’t understand how finances work.”
For the average voter, taking the time to become informed… well it’s not going to change anything. And so we do other things with our time. Being knowledgeable about politics is hard work and the gang, just like the rest of us, well we’re not motivated to put in that kind of effort without a payoff. People don’t become less self-interested when they get into government. They don’t somehow become selfless angels. And we can’t rely on voters to hold the government accountable. We should expect power to corrupt, and our institutions they should be built to protect us from that corruption.
If we want to keep the Dennis’s and the Frank’s off our backs, the best thing we can do is to make it harder for jerks to use the government against us. That means limiting the government’s power to hand out favors or to bring down the hammer. The last thing any of us should want is for “the gang” to become the government.
“Yeah, you know it pal!”