Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Representative who insists that he pays his own salary

Perhaps you've seen this clip circulating around...

Rep. Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma is confronted by an angry constituent at a town hall, who insists that they pay his salary, and he angrily responds that he pays his own salary, seeing the position as a service, not a job.  I'll refrain from commenting on the nonsense of "bullcrap" rather than"bullshit" as though the latter is offensive whereas the former is not, even though they mean the same fucking thing, making the former an insult to the intelligence of the listener.  OK, so that counts as a comment.  Moving on.

Anyway, I wrote a book about this!  Hiring and Firing Public Officials: Rethinking the Purpose of Elections.  The gist was this:  lots of people think of an election like a market.  Candidates are like firms, so we want close elections for the same reason that we want competitive markets.  Non-sequitur.  An election is nothing like a market.  An election is just a way of hiring someone to do a job.  A re-election campaign is a determination of whether or not to renew a contract.  You don't want to flip a coin to decide whether or not to fire a person.  You want a threat to fire a person who does a bad job.  If the threat doesn't work, you want to fire that person deterministically.  If it does work, you want to renew that person's contract deterministically.  Flipping a coin?  Never.  Competitive elections don't make sense.

The threat only works, though, if the person in the job kinda needs/wants it.  Notice how Markwayne Mullin is taking the take-this-job-and-shove-it attitude here?  Yeah.  Sort of throws a wrench in things, doesn't it?

Now, there is a debate among political theorists about what representation should be:  should representatives be "delegates," who reflect the preferences of their constituents (which is actually mathematically impossible, but that's another problem that I have discussed a few times), or should they be "trustees," and just do what they think is in the constituents' best interests, regardless of what constituents want?  Mullin is taking a "trustee" attitude.  Notice how people react when you do that in an... impolitic way.

If you want Representatives who at least try to act as delegates, though, they kind of need to be dependent on the job for a salary, and think of the position as a job.


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