There are a number of wealthy people in this country with outsize egos but not much common sense. These people are willing to fork over hundreds of thousands of dollars to political campaigns if politicians and staff will pretend to take them seriously, even for a few minutes at a time. “Thanks for your insights on China, they will help me plan our national strategy.” No, they won’t, and 99.999% of the things that rich donors tell politicians will be laughed at, ignored and trashed—though staffers will be assigned to write letters maintaining the illusion that the donor’s half-educated ramblings have somehow been incorporated in something official…
That, according to Mead, isn’t really so bad. Rich people might have less direct impact on politics than we tend to think.
… if anyone wonders why so many of our career politicians are cynics with deep contempt for the public they serve, years of fawning over dumb rich people, pretending to take their silly ideas seriously, assuring each of them that you aren’t like the other stupid rich people, no, you are special, you are smart, and our ten minutes a year friendship punctuated by check writing is deep and sincere—all this tends to corrode the soul. Having a political class who subsist on exploiting the character weaknesses and insatiable narcissism of dilettante plutocrats isn’t the best way to cultivate an ethos of responsibility and patriotism at the highest levels of government.
I have a hard time believing it but I once worked as “Development Officer” (fundraiser) for a charitable organisation. It seems like a lifetime ago. I was bad at at (got fired after a few months) in large part because I couldn’t pull off the insincerity. I could not in good conscience ask people for money for a charity which had a lousy record of stewardship and it wore me out.
Mead is correct, it is bad for the soul.