James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Is it Better to be Rich or Right?

When this story appeared on Charlie Gibson's show, I got the distinct impression that there's something not right in the plaintiff's head. Just the way he carried himself in the footage, and the fact he's representing himself. Because of this, I kind of feel bad for him. Kind of like feeling bad for the accuser, rather than the prosecutor, in the Duke rape case.

Then again, I could be wrong. It could be this fellow's intention is to loot an insurance company. If you ask for the moon, perhaps the jury's perception of scale will be distorted and they will give you the sky, a more "reasonable" demand.

Perhaps this is why people would rather cheer for outright thieves (look at the popularity of the Oceans movies), though they are repelled by theft through "legal" channels. In both instances, the cause is morally wrong. In both instances, some big, faceless, wealthy insurance company will bear the brunt. But the thief at least risks arrest, whereas the plaintiff seeks affirmation and justification from the court.

This is also why liars are more likable than deceivers. Liars risk getting caught, and when they are, they're in trouble, but one can at least admire the audacity. A deceiver, however, will plead innocence and blame you for misinterpreting their words, and technically they would be correct.

One kind of crook wants to steal from you to enjoy a licentious lifestyle. The other crook, however, wants to steal from you while maintaining moral superiority. He justifies himself by winning in a court of law, thereby "proving" he's right and you're wrong, that he's the honorable one and that you were the real thief.

Some people require the satisfaction of being "proved" right before the public before they are satisfied. In the case of politicians, this is more dangerous than mere corruption. A corrupt politician is in it for himself. Yes, that's dangerous, because corruption can lead to short-sighted policies that ruin the country. On the other hand, such a fellow is less dangerous than the idealistic politician who wants to use the government to stamp out all evil, and to take credit for it in his own lifetime and throughout eternity. A corrupt politician is, unless he's an idiot, a prudent one; he is governed by rational self-interest and won't rock the boat too much. An ideologue, however, would destroy the whole world to bring back Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

The corrupt politician will over-tax you. The ideologue will try to make you perfect, and then blame you and kill you when he fails.

In the grand scheme of things, it is probably better to be right than to merely think you're right. But because our perspectives are so limited, one is most wise by doubting whether one is right, and one must be at least somewhat tolerant of the perceived "wrong" other people do. Corrupt politicians out for gain understand this, and that's why it's preferable to be governed by them than by the Anointed who will Save the World.

Of course, it's probably best to not be governed at all.

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