I recently stumbled across this YouTube video that demonstrates how to perform a certain magic trick with cards. Being prone to consider things in relation to economics and politics, I realized a similarity that is so obvious but had gone completely missed by me until that point.
Think about the role of a magician. The magician must put on a theatrical show to gain a sense of “wow” from the spectators. He must distract the spectators with grandiose and flashy actions to create an illusion that removes attention from the basic and subtle things being done to complete the trick. The entirety of his performance is a carefully crafted illusion to impress spectators without having actually done anything magical, in the mystical sense of the word.
To replace the word “magician” with the word “politician” wouldn’t diminish much of the validity of the statements above. Politicians often try to push flashy issues to the forefront of the public’s attention, while they operate fairly quietly on crucial issues, hoping they will be overlooked. For example, the entire debate over the sequester cuts at the end of 2012 put major emphasis on relatively insignificant cuts, distracting many from the reality of the $222 trillion in unfunded liabilities of the United States government.
Politicians, too, seem to believe themselves to possess the power to work magic. Believing themselves capable of legislating morality, capable of keeping certain goods out of the hands of individuals, capable of planning economies and monetary policy, and so on, politicians tend to act as if their ability is unlimited. However, as libertarians we know that the politician is no more capable of producing magic than the magician is, and that their actions ultimately prove to be an illusory façade.Published in