The new spoils system

If you live in a state, or even a Congressional district, that has the temerity to vote Democratic, Richard Armey thinks you are an enemy to be despoiled. You don’t have to believe me; he says so himself. [Note: Corrected to remove a reference to Tom Delay in place of Armey. Perhaps an enterprising reporter could ask DeLay whether he agrees with his predecessor.]

Thanks to DHinMI at Daily Kos for the link. DH also has news on the latest incarnation of this; apparently the Medicare bill takes money from the large urban teaching hospitals where all the medical progress gets made and sends it to rural hospitals instead.

What infuriates me about the Armey quote isn’t that he said it, but that I’d never heard of it before. Just imagine what the VWRC would have done with a comparable quote from a Democrat.

Historical footnote: When I learned about the “spoils system” in eighth grade American history, no one told me what “spoils” meant, and I don’t recall ever seeing the full original quote from Sen. William Marcy of New York, which would have made sense of the phrase. Marcy, a supporter of Van Buren, said, “To the victor belong the spoils of the enemy,” a reference to the looting of the corpses of enemy soldiers then permitted by the laws of war. Looting is now, of course, treated as a war crime, but Mr. Armey still say it’s an appropriate way to treat his fellow citizens. His friends still in positions of power are too busy acting on it to talk about it.

The Whigs were right to make a fuss about the use of that phrase then, and presumably would be ashamed of the behavior of the party that is their successor-in-business now.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

One thought on “The new spoils system”

  1. Republican looters

    Mark Kleiman notes that "Looting is now, of course, treated as a war crime, but Mr. DeLay still thinks it an appropriate way to treat his fellow citizens." This is

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