Wright from Washington City

November 15, 2000


A modest proposal



The electoral chaos of the presidential election has got me to thinking. The big problem with politics these days — well, throughout history, actually — is that people want to hold elective office too much. Al Gore's unseemly behavior in demanding recounts until the right result is achieved is only the latest example of this tendency.

Well, of course, you say, people want public office because of the access to power and wealth (not to mention sex) it offers. And, unfortunately, those things hold a great attraction for psychopaths such as Bill Clinton, self-righteous hypocrites such as St. Joseph Lieberman, rich boys suffering from identity deficiencies such as Gore and Bush, and various other self-aggrandizers, thieves, poseurs, sadists, megalomaniacs, and gimps with sexual potency problems. Remove the incentives, and you'd be more likely to get candidates who ran for office out of a sense of duty, like people who do volunteer work around the neighborhood. As it is, even those few who do become politicians for that reason almost always find the easy gratification of their basic urges too much to resist.

Unfortunately, it's impossible to do away with the things that make elective offices so attractive, because power over other people and the manipulation of money and wealth are at the core of their very nature. The only answer is to find some means to counterbalance the inherent perquisites. Thus, my proposal: make each successful candidate for public office pay a very special price for his privileges.

Here's how it would work. Each time a politician was elected to office, some part of his body would be removed. For relatively unimportant positions, such as county commissioner, it would be a small thing, hardly missed, such as the first knuckle of a finger or part of an ear. Larger offices would require the sacrifice of more-important body parts on a sliding scale, up to the loss of a leg above the knee for the office of U.S. senator or state governor. For the presidency, of course, the price would be execution at the end of one four-year term.

Similarly, administration political appointees, Democratic and Republican Party officials, and congressional staffers would also be required to sacrifice their lives or various appendages according to the importance and income attached to the offices they held. That would help circumvent the potential problem of "beards" or front men holding the nominal office with the real power being held by aides.

Consider the advantages of such a system. Not only would it cut down tremendously on the costs of Secret Service protection for retired imperial presidents; it would have a natural term-limiting effect. People would be allowed to run for office for as many terms as they cared to sacrifice body parts. If you held a minor office, you could serve for many terms without losing more than the use of, say, one hand. On the other hand, so to speak, U.S. senators would, for all practical purposes, be restricted to three terms: the loss of both legs and one arm being about the limit a politician would be likely to accept. After all, what public servant would willingly lose the arm with which he shakes hands and signs memos? [1]

Sure, there would be wrinkles to iron out, questions to be addressed, and refinements to be added. [2] For example, some would contend that amputation would reduce former politicians' productivity and make them burdens on society. However, I would argue that "public servants" do far more damage to society than they could possibly repair through the pursuit of honest labor. In any case, most of them are frankly, utterly useless for anything resembling productive activity, and some shouldn't even be let out of the house by themselves. And many of us citizen-subjects wouldn't be troubled at all by this predictable "problem" in a close race, the exact opposite of the one we see in the wake of the 2000 election: an "after you, Alphonse" situation, in which each candidate lost his nerve and tried to concede to the other.

While such a system would probably discourage someone like Clinton from seeking the presidency, for some the ready availability of comely interns, staffers, and political groupies might be too much. To avoid the inevitable problems caused by priapic politicians, should we require castration as a prerequisite for holding office above a certain level? And if so, which level? Would simple castration do, or would radical castration such as practiced on Chinese court eunuchs — the removal of all external sexual organs — be more desirable? Would castration reduce the aggressiveness of an office-holder, and, if so, would that be a good or bad thing on balance? Then there is the potential problem of amputation fetishists, who might start to seek office and seek to be around office-holders.

I'm not saying I have all the answers, and it's true that such questions must be resolved. But I am certain they can and will be resolved, given the Political Genius Inherent in the American Democratic Mind. The problem with all political systems up to this point is simply that they haven't addressed the issue of power and money in an effective manner. My approach can provide us with a political system that really works!


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1. A friend of mine from Georgia tells me that a prominent politician there who'd lost the use of one arm was always considered to be at a serious disadvantage in local politics: when the bribe money was dumped out on the table, he came up short because he had only one hand to scoop it up with, while the others had two. (Back)


2. Another friend suggests that politicians be allowed the option of volunteering internal organs for transplant in place of losing digits or limbs. At first glance, that has certain attractions: it might give politicians the chance — once in their lives — to actually make a positive difference in someone's life, giving actual meaning to the term "public service." However, there is the question of whether the average politician's organs are worth anything at all, considering the debauched lifestyles in which many or most of them indulge. (Back)