“Reform politicians not only tend to be dishonest but stupidly dishonest — whereas the business politician is honest.”
“I don’t see that, Lazarus. History seems to show…”
“Use your head, Ira. I don’t mean that a business politician won’t steal; stealing is his business. But all politicians are nonproductive. The only commodity any politician has to offer is jawbone. His personal integrity — meaning, if he gives his word, can you rely on it? A successful business politician knows this and guards his reputation for sticking by his commitments — because he wants to stay in business — go on stealing, that is — not only this week but next year and years after that. So if he’s smart enough to be successful at this very exacting trade, he can have the morals of a snapping turtle, but he performs in such a way as not to jeopardize the only thing he has to sell, his reputation for keeping promises.
“But a reform politician has no such lodestone. His devotion is to the welfare of all the people — an abstraction of very high order and therefore capable of endless definitions. If indeed it can be defined in meaningful terms. In consequence your utterly sincere and incorruptible reform politician is capable of breaking his word three times before breakfast — not from personal dishonesty, as he sincerely regrets the necessity and will tell you so — but from unswerving devotion to his ideal.
“All it takes to get him to break his word is for someone to get his ear and convince him that it is necessary for the greater good of all the peepul. He’ll geek.
“After he gets hardened to this, he’s capable of cheating at solitaire. Fortunately he rarely stays in office long — except during the decay and fall of a culture.”
– Robert Heinlein, Time Enough for Love