Government and the People

Wildavsky, Aaron. "Government and the People," Commentary Magazine, August 1973.

“We shall never learn what needs to be learned about the American political system until we understand not only what the system does to the people, but what the people do to the system. Political institutions are no different from other organizations: to the great question of organizational life—who will bear the costs of change?—the answer, in the public as in the private sphere, is, “someone else, not me.” The universal tendency to make life easy for ourselves and to impose difficulties on others applies equally to politicians, and when they find their lives intolerable no one should be surprised that they react by seeking to lay their burdens on the shoulders of others.

Especially during the past decade, almost our whole attention as citizens has been devoted to the ways in which politicians have failed to serve the people. Few have asked how politicians manage to live in the world, because it is assumed that they are doing fine and that the problem is to make them behave decently toward us—almost as if politicians lived somehow apart from American life. Yet it would be strange indeed if our politicians were a special breed, uninfluenced by their milieu, springing full-born like Minerva from the head of Jove in a world they never made, but on which they work their mythical powers.”

– Excerpt

Commentary Magazine