Joe Miller’s Fallacy

When Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller finally came clean about his unethical, and probably illegal, misuse of a government computer when he was working as a part-time lawyer, he shrugged it off by pointing out that his flaws were actually a qualification for office: it proved that he was just like the people electing him.

Let us assume that everyone in Alaska is, as Miller suggests, unethical and untrustworthy, just like him. Let’s alos assume that, like him, they have no substantial experience in governing. The only route of analysis that would lead to the conclusion that Americans want individuals no more honest, intelligent, or skilled in governing than they are requires a conclusion that leading and governing requires no special qualities of character, skills, and experience at all.

Leadership and governing are not like that, however, and the only people who believe the nonsense that Miller (and much of the Tea Party movement) is spouting are ignorant, naive, and have never tried to lead or run anything more challenging that a copy machine. Leaders are by definition extraordinary; they are leaders because they are not like everyone else.

It is both stunning and annoying to hear candidates for high office make statements that indicate that anyone off the street could do the critical job they are running for. We don’t let someone replace a heart valve because they are “like us”; we don’t want our military leaders to be “like us”; we don’t want to watch athletes who are “like us” or have our teeth drilled by people who, like us, wouldn’t know how to do a root canal if our lives depended on it. Why, oh why, would anyone conclude that leading a large and complex nation, making laws and policies that affect millions of lives, doesn’t require experience, specialized knowledge, and superior character?

Answer: One concludes this only if one is completely without practical and historical knowledge about how difficult leadership and governing is, and without the sense to realize when one should not seek a job that one has no qualifications for whatsoever. Indeed, it is irresponsible to do so.

In other words, Miller’s statement proves that he is unqualified to be a national leader.

Just like most of the rest of us.

2 thoughts on “Joe Miller’s Fallacy

  1. I just don’t know why we keep electing lawyers instead of intellectuals. Lawyers instead of philosophers. Lawyers instead of military strategists. Lawyers instead of doctors. Lawyers instead of teachers. I’m guessing that 95% of Americans aren’t lawyers, but only 3% or less of our leaders aren’t current or former lawyers.

    • Actually, the number of lawyers on the Hill has been declining. The problem isn’t that they are lawyers…it’s that they are middling to poor lawyers, often failed lawyers, like Harry Reid, or Joe Miller. Being a lawyer should be good training for writing legislation. Smart, courageous, principled people of any background will make good representative.

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