Writes an American President:
The period from 1933 to 1938 in America was dominated by a clash in philosophical ideas to which I felt it was my duty to apply every bit of strength I possessed. I was convinced that a great error had come into liberal thinking, which threatened to destroy the magnificent civilization which intellectual and spiritual freedom had builded and which was its impulse to progress. . . .
The error in ideas came first in the form of Socialism but had made little progress prior to the first World War. The root of the error was that government operation of economic instrumentalities, or government direction of their operation other than establishment of rules of conduct, could short-cut all human ills and produce immediate Utopia. This gigantic poison of liberty received a great impulse from the government agencies created to mobilize the whole energies of peoples in total war. Here the impulses of patriotism to produce and labor and the fear of the enemy were substituted for free will. After the war the inevitable flood of misery, of impoverishment and frustration furnished the hotbed for the growth of this gigantic error. It developed over Europe in various forms—all from the same root. Communism, Fascism, and the milder forms of Statism, were heralded by well-meaning and generous-minded men as to the new road to life. They were joined by demagogs and seekers-for-power. The ultimate end was slavery, whether in Communistic or Fascist form. This philosophic error had spread mildly in American thinking, but attained no dangerous proportions until the world-wide depression struck us with all its violence, misery and exposure of wrong-doing.
It was certain in my mind that the New Deal was but one form of this same error in ideas and that it was my job to fight it. But fighting a philosophic idea among a people who had never thought in these channels was not only a difficult thing in itself, but one must contend with demagogic promises of Utopia to a suffering people and the obvious needs of reform in the system itself.
The American people at large had scarcely heard the word ideology. They had developed and they had lived and breathed a way of life without defining it as an “ideology.”
Read more of this fascinating article.
See also my The Essence of Politics or The Banality of Evil (1/2), which contains interesting information on another American President, while my views on politics have changed since the post's publication.
There is more than enough to complain about politics and politicians, but one must be careful not to become one-sided or paranoid.
Politics deals with fuzzy ends that we cannot wish away. We need to deal with these fuzzy ends. Neither is it true that there are no good and acceptable politicians, nor is it true that politics can never help improve our lot.
True, being a good and competent politician capable of bringing about advantageous policies, and stemming the tide of bad policies, is one of the toughest and often one of the most thankless tasks.
All the more, we are not advancing the likelihood of good politics by summarily condemning politics and the politicians.
Also see Coolidge.