MI Governor’s Rule-Breaking Is Nothing New—Here’s Why Politicians Seem to Favor Hypocrisy

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer isn’t the best at following orders. But then again, neither are the majority of her colleagues in politics. 

After prohibiting Michiganders from traveling between residences they own at the height of the pandemic, Gretchen got some attention for allowing her own husband to travel between their homes. Now, the Democrat is once again under fire for posing for pictures with a score of people who do not belong to her household, all the while MI’s social distancing rules remain in place. Seems like hypocrisy isn’t an issue she’s willing to work on—but is she the only politician suffering from that problem? 

When it comes to bureaucrats, it’s easy to report on these incidents and see them for what they appear to be.

Yes, it is hypocritical for a politician to force us to stay locked inside our homes while they enjoy parties, travel, or get a haircut. But the fact these stories still shock us is where the problem lies. 

If anything, these are signs of a much wider problem, and one that remains hopelessly unexploited. 

Bureaucrats Do Not Care About You

If there’s one thing we learned from the Covid-19 pandemic is that few politicians truly care about our well-being. 

By mandating business closures, forcing healthy school-aged kids to remain locked in their homes, and forcing entire state populations to postpone their plans indefinitely, state leaders proved they didn’t worry about the unprecedented job loss, mental health decline, and the sharp increase in the numbers of suicides and attempted suicides the isolation was to produce. But whenever one of these lockdown peddlers was caught in a lie, whether they were spotted in a hair salon, showing off some dance moves in shutdown Central Park, or dining with friends—without a mask!—they were always in the news. 

What should be news isn’t how often bureaucrats break their own rules but how often we ignore their dishonesty. 

They are not, after all, in the business of bettering our lives. As demonstrated by Austrian economist Murray Rothbard in The Anatomy of the State, those who seek a career in politics often do so to both promote themselves and strengthen what got them there in the first place: the bureaucracy. 

Politics: The Art of Breaking Rules

According to social psychologist Daniel Effron, people like to be perceived as virtuous but that doesn’t mean they will actually go as far as acting virtuously to stay on brand. When it comes to politicians, there’s yet another problem at stake. 

By trying to please different audiences, Effron said, they end up acting in ways that seem unfair to lots of us. So why can they break rules and be free from the consequences imposed by themselves while we get arrested for trying? Because once you’re part of the bureaucratic machine, you no longer have any skin in the game. 

As H. L. Mencken once explained, most career politicians feel the need to compromise “with their honor, either by swallowing their convictions or by whooping for what they believe to be untrue.” As a matter of fact, he added, “those wishing to get elected and stay elected must be prepared to break every moral rule they have ever known.” 

As we saw in the pandemic, politicians are more than prepared to impose restrictions on people’s freedoms while making it clear that they do not plan on tagging along. Just as they are ready to break basic moral codes for more power, they are also ready to break their own rules while using the bureaucratic apparatus to keep you in line. In the end, there is no code of conduct that keeps these politicians in check. We just ought to finally recognize it.

Chloe Anagnos is the former Director of Marketing, Outreach, and Sales at the Independent Institute.
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