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I understand that it's a little goofy to draw lessons from a fictional movie, but I am going to proceed nonetheless. My wife and I were just watching Braveheart and there was one interesting element in there. In the movie, the nobles of Scotland keep betraying William Wallace who is fighting for the people of Scotland. And my wife asked me why the nobles continually stab Wallace in the back if he is fighting for their country.

As Robert the Bruce explains to Wallace in the movie, "They have much to lose." You see, those nobles profited from the status quo of that time. Wallace means to up end that status quo. It's naïve to think that they will help him because they love their country. Of course, they will work against him because they don't want to lose their status, power and riches. That status quo might suck for everyone else, but it's great for them.

And so it is with our nobles today. We keep expecting the politicians and the mainstream press to do the right thing. That is profoundly naive. Why is a television anchor making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year going to look to change the system? He loves the system. The system pays the bills.

That's even truer of our politicians. The status quo got them elected. The status quo will get them - and their staffers - great salaries when they retire and become lobbyists. They'd have to be crazy to change the system that put them up on top.

That's why change must come from outside the system. We keep waiting for the Obama administration to bring us the change they promised. What are we, children? The current system got Barack Obama, Rahm Emanuel, Tim Geithner, etc. where they are. They have gotten to the pinnacle of power by playing within that system. They've made millions in that system. That's why they have no intention of actually upending it. They just want to tweak it and do exactly what Obama said he wouldn't do if he got elected - play the Washington game just a little better.

This doesn't mean you give up all hope. There are some good guys in DC. I recently talked to a House staffer who said that Senator Franken's staff is excellent. The staff is so important because they are the ones who actually write the bills. I asked him why Franken's staff was better than the others. And he had a simple answer - they don't plan to work as lobbyists in DC when they're done serving in his office.

It's not just the honest senators that should give you hope. What should give you the most hope is that the motivations of people are actually quite simple. So, we can change the results by changing the incentives.

For example, if we pay the campaign expenses of politicians instead of letting the lobbyists pay them, then the politicians might actually work for us. If we ban the politicians and their staff from working as lobbyists, they might not have as much incentive to sell us out.

I know the people inside DC think that last proposal is absolute heresy. How would they get rich if they can't work as lobbyists? And that's precisely what the problem is. They're getting rich at our expense. We're crazy to allow this system to continue.

The nobles will never change it. This is how they got to where they are. This is how they maintain their power and salaries. We have to make them change it. And as William Wallace found out, you can only do that from the outside and by not listening to the establishment that has different (and almost exact opposite) motivations as you do.

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Originally posted to Cenk Uygur on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 02:54 AM PDT.

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