Spare the Rod…

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will be sentenced today. His crime? Among other things, he tried to sell President Obama’s former Senate seat. (Pause for irony to set in.) I for one hope he gets a stiff sentence, including taking every day the online ethics exam we state employees have to take every year. Not that it will make him any more ethical–I just want him to suffer some of the same stupidity he imposed upon us.

While this circus was occurring, I marveled at how the mind of a sociopath works. If you are a therapist and think it inappropriate for me to be diagnosing, you have not been keeping up with the story. Blagojevich would lie when the truth would work better. So would Bill Clinton, but he was much, much better at it.

Blagojevich is that breed of man who lacks any notion of what truth is and why it matters. Like Scott Peterson, who killed his pregnant wife and future child and then threw the bodies overboard, his awareness of the outside world extends only as far as his own immediate interests. Peterson is evil and it shows; Blagojevich is evil, but his stupidity masks the fact.

Here is a man who openly engaged in the political process for personal gain. Were we to sentence everyone who did that, we would have to free some of the pot sellers to make room. Yet having Rod standing before us so unarguably guilty puts us in the position of having to make clear where we stand. I hope the judge sends a clear message that being elected to represent the people of Illinois is not to be taken lightly and that violators of that trust will suffer. Our cynicism should not lead to leniency.

There are dozens of reasons to despise Rod Blagojevich, but the one that sticks out for me is his complete lack of remorse. He is like Pete Rose without the redeeming qualities. Each fessed up only after the last possible pretense was exhausted and humility seemed like a good strategy. Government by sociopath is not what the Founders had in mind.

We would do well to remember that Rod Blagojevich is only politics as usual run up the flagpole. The Founders were acutely aware that even good men and women should not lord over others. For every sociopath, there are a thousand sleaze bags who fall short of outright evil. For every one of those, there are tens of thousands of well-meaning public servants who screw things up by trying to fix them through politics.

The solution is to remember once again our fundamental distrust of government. When I hear the anguished cries of my countrymen for government to do more, I tremble. It is a serpent whose lies tempt us to give it free reign in the Garden. Rod Blagojevich is the face of that Serpent. Let’s remember it for a long, long time.


About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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