The Ides of March

Paul H. Rubin —  16 October 2011

Just saw the movie The Ides of March.  Very nice.  After Larry’s disucssion of the shabby treatment business receives in the movies, it is nice to see politics receive the same treatment.  This movie is based on a play “Farragut North” written by a Howard Dean staffer and the actors are well known liberals (e.g., George Clooney) and the political sentiments of the characters (Democratic Presidential candidates) are all liberal clishes, but the characters themselves are shown to be unprincipled power seekers.  Besides its message, the movie is fast moving and enjoyable.

Paul H. Rubin


PAUL H. RUBIN is Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of Economics at Emory University in Atlanta and formerly editor in chief of Managerial and Decision Economics. He blogs at Truth on the Market. He was President of the Southern Economic Association in 2013. He is a Fellow of the Public Choice Society and is associated with the Technology Policy Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, and the Independent Institute. Dr. Rubin has been a Senior Economist at President Reagan's Council of Economic Advisers, Chief Economist at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Director of Advertising Economics at the Federal Trade Commission, and vice-president of Glassman-Oliver Economic Consultants, Inc., a litigation consulting firm in Washington. He has taught economics at the University of Georgia, City University of New York, VPI, and George Washington University Law School. Dr. Rubin has written or edited eleven books, and published over two hundred and fifty articles and chapters on economics, law, regulation, and evolution in journals including the American Economic Review, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, Journal of Legal Studies, and the Journal of Law and Economics, and he frequently contributes to the Wall Street Journal and other leading newspapers. His work has been cited in the professional literature over 8000 times. Books include Managing Business Transactions, Free Press, 1990, Tort Reform by Contract, AEI, 1993, Privacy and the Commercial Use of Personal Information, Kluwer, 2001, (with Thomas Lenard), Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom, Rutgers University Press, 2002, and Economics, Law and Individual Rights, Routledge, 2008 (edited, with Hugo Mialon). He has consulted widely on litigation related matters and has been an adviser to the Congressional Budget Office on tort reform. He has addressed numerous business, professional, policy, government and academic audiences. Dr. Rubin received his B.A. from the University of Cincinnati in 1963 and his Ph.D. from Purdue University in 1970.

2 responses to The Ides of March


    I don’t disagree, but that is a heavy message for a movie. Making the point that even those who appear honest and sincere are still unprincipled selfish power seekers is at least something


    I would go further and argue that this premise of “unprincipled power seekers” — which you seem to suggest is a sort of truth of political reality — is far too charitable and naive to merit praise. This sort of reasoning presumes that political actors are sufficiently well-informed in the identification and pursuit of selfish interests, but this, I would argue, is simply not the case. In fact, this sort of reasoning leads progressively-minded liberals to believe that the only thing preventing successful reform is (1) lack of will power and (2) proper incentives. But that is not really the problem, is it? Assuming that we could impose “principles” onto “power seekers,” the problem would then become, How do we go about identiying and pursuing the correct goals and policies? This is the central problem, and it has nothing to do with *incentives*, and everything to do with our serious cognitive limitations (i.e. Hayekian knowledge problems). The social world is a complex place, and relying solely on incentives as the only real obstacle doesn’t do this fundamental truth sufficient justice. Forget about Public Choice; that sort of theory will get you nowhere.

    University of Missouri, School of Law