Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns


The Politics of Overpromise

Regarding the public pension crisis, Megan McArdle writes, "People have worked for twenty years or more under the expectation of pensions that were calculated this way; you can't just wait until they're 58 and say "Ha, ha, just foolin'." 

I am reminded from some wisdom from Franklin's Autobiography.  Keith, the Governor of Pennsylvania, tells young Franklin:

"Give me an inventory of the things necessary to be had from England, and I will send for them. You shall repay me when you are able; I am resolv'd to have a good printer here, and I am sure you must succeed." This was spoken with such an appearance of cordiality, that I had not the least doubt of his meaning what he said. I had hitherto kept the proposition of my setting up, a secret in Philadelphia, and I still kept it. Had lt been known that I depended on the governor, probably some friend, that knew him better, would have advis'd me not to rely on him, as I afterwards heard it as his known character to be liberal of promises which he never meant to keep. Yet, unsolicited as he was by me, how could I think his generous offers insincere? I believ'd him one of the best men in the world.

Franklin travels to England to get the materials needed to return to America and set up shop as a printer. Franklin learns the lesson:

I found my friend Denham, and opened the whole affair to him.   He let me into Keith's character; told me there was not the least probability that he had written any letters for me; that no one, who knew him, had the smallest dependence on him; and he laught at the notion of the governor's giving me a letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit to give. On my expressing some concern about what I should do, he advised me to endeavor getting some employment in the way of my business. "Among the printers here," said he, "you will improve yourself, and when you return to America, you will set up to greater advantage."

The lesson:

But what shall we think of a governor's playing such pitiful tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy! It was a habit he had acquired. He wish'd to please everybody; and, having little to give, he gave expectations. He was otherwise an ingenious, sensible man.

Categories > Politics

Discussions - 1 Comment

Let those who believed fat pensions could be had for 20 years' of half-assed work go out and work at Wal-Mart.

That's what I'll be doing -- when my company switched from defined benefit to defined contribution I lost out on over a million dollars in potential post-retirement pay.

I missed by 3 weeks -- I had the years of service but missed on the age cut-off by 3 weeks.

I have little sympathy for government workers who do little work during their "career" and thus don't deserve a free ride after.

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