by Patrick Appel

Yglesias admits:

I find it very difficult to extend my powers of moral imagination to the kind of people who hold high political office in the United States. Tyler Cowen deems the relevant psychological dynamic the addiction of fame and power and it’s just an addiction I have a hard time understanding. If some weird situation somehow resulted in me becoming a United States Senator, I would spend six years making trouble, having fun, and trying to do the right thing. Probably I’d lose a primary or something since I wasn’t bothering to raise money or campaign. Then I’d [write] a book about it.

Wilkinson chimes in:

The incentives of the political process create a kind of filter that selects for individuals extraordinarily fixated on power and status and extraordinarily motivated to keep it. If this is right (anyone know of personality studies of politicans?), then the problem with standard public choice is that it gives too much credit to politicians by assuming they’re like everyone else and therefore it fails to capture just how exceptionally prone politicians are to narcissism, motivated cognition, self-deception, and brazen lying.

It would be incredible to see personality profiles of politicians at different levels of government, but politicians by and large have a flexible definition of truth, so I'm not convinced that you would be able to get accurate psychological profiles.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.