Whether New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is guilty as charged, the statement he made in his defense illustrates what public choice theory has taught economists: as James Buchanan wrote, we must study “politics without romance.”

At about 12:50 in the video (well worth watching), Cuomo declared:

My job is not about me. My job is about you. What matters to me at the end of the day is getting the most done I can for you. And that is what I do every day.

Perhaps we can find politicians genuinely devoted to doing good for their electors, who selflessly sacrifice themselves to that task, and who don’t realize that the benefits they provide to some (“you”) are at the cost of harming others (those who don’t agree or see their own opportunities reduced). Perhaps we can even find the rare politician who tries hard not to hurt some in order to give privileges to others but, instead, to do only what he thinks is unanimously wanted by all his constituents—that is, in conformity with the rules presumably meeting everyone‘s consent in an implicit social contract.

But it is the contention of classical liberalism in general and public-choice economics in particular that it is unrealistic and perilous to found a political system on the assumption that the typical politician is or can be such a saint. John Stuart Mill wrote:

The very principle of constitutional government requires it to be assumed that political power will be abused to promote the particular purposes of the holder; not because it is always so, but because such is the natural tendency of things, to guard against which is the special use of free institutions.

This also applies to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who produced the report against Cuomo and may have gubernatorial (or other political) ambitions.