…comes from page 198 of the Liberty Fund edition of James Buchanan’s 1975 book The Limits of Liberty: Between Anarchy and Leviathan:
It is unrealistic to assume that elected officials who occupy executive and legislative positions of responsibility have no personal preferences about the overall size of the public sector, its sources of revenue, and, most important, the particular components of public outlays. A person who is genuinely indifferent in all these respects would not be attracted to politics, either as a profession or an advocation. Politicians are likely to be those persons who do have personal preferences about such matters and who are attracted to politics precisely because they think that, though politics, they can exercise some influence over collective outcomes. Once this basic, if simple, point is recognized, it is easy to see that budgetary results will not fully reflect voters’ preferences, even of those who are members of the effective coalition that achieves victory for its own candidate or party.
This simple, if basic, point is one often forgotten in discussions of the political. Politicians are assumed to either be guided by the Will of the People and The People just need to be educated on an issue, or politicians are guided by experts, and it’s just a matter of getting the right experts to the right ears, or politicians are influenced by dollars and donations, and it’s just a matter of limiting money in politics. But none of these assumptions ascribe any agency to politicians. In short, they forget politicians are people too, fashioned from the same clay as the rest of us.