Via Cafe Hayek, I find this superb quote by HL Mencken that is especially apt for this season:
Under democracy, one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule – and both commonly succeed, and are right.
This doesn’t just apply to America—all political parties everywhere are unfit for the job. The purpose of government is to serve the people, but people enter politics to rule, not serve. Their incentives are aligned to their own interests, not to ours. Yes, theoretically they are accountable, for we can vote them out of power if they misuse it, but given that we are always faced with a choice between the pillager and the plunderer, this isn’t much good in practice.
And it’s easy to rationalize our choices, isn’t it? We vote for the devil because he has fire in his belly; we choose the deep, blue sea because of its calming influence. And so on.
Also see: A Beast Called Government.