Public servants, as the term is normally understood, really don't serve the public at all. They don't live a selfless life of doing for others out of the goodness of their hearts. They work for a paycheck, just like everyone else.
They work for their bosses, just like everyone else. They want to keep their jobs, just like everyone else, and do whatever it takes to do so.
It may be said that, in a democratic society, elected politicians are accountable to the public and must do what is in the public interest in order to keep their jobs.
In reality, though, politicians don't have to behave in a way that benefits the public. They just have to say they do, and the public believes them.
They can say the most absurd things and nobody questions their honesty, integrity, intelligence, or understanding of economic reality. The public has shown itself to be incompetent in holding politicians accountable for the public interest.
The reason for that is simple. There is no such entity called "the public," and, therefore, there is no identifiable interest for such public. There are only individuals and groups that have their own interests, which are often at odds with others. If a politician makes a decision that favors one group of individuals, it must necessarily come at the expense of another. The politician must use the threat of force, backed up by actual violence, to coerce one group to do what is not in its own interest.
There is an alternative to the threat of force. It is the golden rule - do to others what you would have them do to you.
If you don't want others to have the capacity to take your stuff, then you have to refrain from taking the stuff of others, whether it is personally or through agents called politicians. Another name for it is voluntary commerce, or markets.
If people truly are free to associate with whomever they please, to transact on terms on which the parties can agree, and to refrain from dealings they feel are not in their own best interest, nobody's gain comes at the expense of another.
If the parties agree to a voluntary transaction, it is only because they believe they will be better off, in some way, after the transaction. There are, of course, cases of fraud, but they cannot be tolerated in a free society. They are violations of the rights of others and should be punished as such.
When everyone is free to interact with others on their own terms, when they are not subject to arbitrary politics, the conditions are right for progress in society. Free societies prosper, unfree societies suffocate, and there lies the cruel irony.
The people who use arbitrary political power to take from others or to set one group against another, thereby hurting progress and depleting prosperity, are called public servants. Those who actually help to improve the welfare of society as a whole, the entrepreneurs, the employers and employees, the creators, and the innovators, are not called public servants.
We need to see through the fog and the rhetoric to understand that politicians and bureaucrats have their own agendas, and you are not on them unless you donate to campaigns or belong to a group that can pull strings. It's time we recognize that true public servants are those who actually contribute progress in society.
They are the ones who are productive, who create value, who don't take without giving something in return. They are the ones who promote freedom and the compassionate results that come from it.
Daniel McLaughlin is a Randolph resident.