Thank you Tom Coale

2 minute read

Tom Coale deserves our thanks for showing us the best aspects of politics, in a world in which we so often see the worst.

Dear Tom,

True to your nature, I see you’ve already blogged about the election results yesterday and given us your thoughts on what was a hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful effort in District 9B. I can’t let your post go without one of my own. I don’t for a moment regret my endorsement of you, and in particular I don’t regret the investment I made in your campaign through my donations. I felt they were an excellent investment in a campaign that by all indications was professionally run, focused on issues that matter to the people of Ellicott City, positive in all its aspects, and (most important) featured a candidate who was tireless in reaching out to his potential constituents, listening to their opinions, and promoting a practical vision for governing.

Please pardon me while I go a bit meta (in my usual way): As you may or may not know, a lot of libertarians and conservatives are enamored of public choice theory and its use of economic theories to explain why politicians behave as they do. Which is fine as far as it goes, but they often go on to use this as a stick with which to beat advocates of government action, claiming that public choice theory conclusively proves that all politicians are motivated only by their own self-interest, and thus can never and will never act so as to promote the public good. This, to be frank, is a crock of crap. It’s simply the flip side of the argument many progressives make, that market failures prove that capitalism doesn’t work as advertised, and ultimately is nothing but selfishness and greed incarnate.

What is true is that both democracy and capitalism work best when practiced by people whose personalities and experiences predispose them to have concerns for others beyond themselves and their “tribes”. Motivated in many ways by self-interest they may be (who would ever run for public office without a fair amount of ambition to provide a spur?), but there are lots of politicians (of all parties) who clearly are moved by a sense of civic duty and genuinely seek to improve the well-being of their constituents (just as there are many businesspeople for whom money is not the be-all and end-all, and who genuinely seek to improve the well-being of their customers). We in Howard County are blessed to have more than our fair share of such politicians, of whom you are one. I appreciate all that you have done for this county thus far, and look forward to seeing the fruits of whatever civic activities you may choose to undertake in the future. Thank you again, and the best of luck in your post-campaign life.

Your supporter and fellow blogger,