House of Cards: Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons on Politics – Learn Liberty

House of Cards: Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons on Politics – Learn Liberty


In a world where politicians will do almost
anything to punish their political enemies, from closing down lanes of bridge traffic
to turning loose the IRS, Netflix’s series House of Cards and its tale of the ruthless
and ambitious congressman Frank Underwood straddles the line between fiction and reality.
Here are the top three lessons to help you better understand the much anticipated second
season of House of Cards. Number one, as a general principle, we should
be very skeptical of politicians. After all, the motives of people who desire to rule others
should be regarded suspiciously. The series presents politicians as no different from
any other human being in their desire to satisfy their own interests first. For example, Frank
was passed over for the Secretary of State position he was led to believe would be his,
and sets his plan in motion to essentially get revenge and higher office. House of Cards
is a strong realistic alternative to the romantic view of politics so often seen in the media. Number two, House of Cards shows the constant
backroom trading of favors among the politicians, their staffers, special interests, and, occasionally,
the public. Politics is yet another way in which people try to make themselves better
off through exchange. Take Peter Russo for instance. Frank saves Russo from the cops,
who busted him for DUI and solicitation, and now Russo is effectively Frank’s pawn. He
encourages Russo to flip-flop on the shipyards that employ his constituents in order to promote
a green project for the Underwoods’ own goals, with only a fig leaf of public interest. Unlike
the market, where mutually beneficial exchanges tend to produce unintended benefits for society,
the consequences of political exchange are often harmful. Number three, politics attracts those who
are especially skilled at public relations, favor trading, and power plays, not necessarily
those who best affirm the public interest. Where the object is to manipulate other people
into doing your bidding and to look good publicly while doing it, those who have a comparative
advantage in wielding this ugly form of power will rise to high office. As the economist F. A. Hayek put it in his
book The Road to Serfdom, this is why the worst get on top. If we want to prevent more
Frank Underwoods from climbing the political ladder, we need to change the incentives of
politics in order to reduce the power of politicians. We need a more limited government without
the possibility of dealing with these kinds of special favors. Though some might call House of Cards deeply
cynical, it’s better described as an unromantic and realistic view of politics, and one that
finds support in political and economic theory. You can learn more about this in our interactive
Learn Liberty Academy taught by yours truly and fueled by passionate Facebook discussions
and riveting content. And we might even be able to provide you with some ideas on what
you can do about the problems raised in House of Cards. Please register now.

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62 thoughts on “House of Cards: Frank Underwood’s Top 3 Lessons on Politics – Learn Liberty”

  • How can we eliminate the incentive for political corruption? Make government voluntary. No, I don't mean moving to Somalia.

  • *spoiler* ¬†Sure, politicians do some evil shit. ¬†But on the other hand Zoe Barnes got smashed by a train, so let's give credit where credit is due.

  • Limiting government sounds great until you realize that corporate interests will step in to fill the gap. "Nature abhors a vacuum"

  • Fine video, but your bias is showing. Changing incentives does not equal shrinking government's role. It can equate to growing it. Also many of the outcomes of economic exchange are also harmful. ¬†

    Also, I have to point out that the IRS "scandal" was basically proven to be nonsense. The requests for additional information came because of the wave of new groups were being created. None of the groups were denied (some liberal groups in the same time frame were) and the guy who asked for the information is a Republican. It's disingenuous to equate that with Christie's antics, or the actions in HoC.

  • Here's a question… can you truly have a libertarian politician who is good at politics? Or does the act of being a good politician negate the libertarian's base beliefs?

  • ¬†This quote is applicable to MOST Politician.It's said that Power corrupts,But it's actually more true that power attracts the corruptible.The sane are attracted by other things than power-DB ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†

  • I love how this video portrays the "markets that produces mutual benefit for society" with dollar bills. Lol What a great subliminal message that was. The market is why politics has gotten corrupt. MONEY money money. Look at Raymond Tusk and Remy in HOC.

  • Politics and economics go hand in hand. Unfortunately what is good for economics is probably bad politics and vice versa. Politics eventually drives economic policy especially when objective is to appease a certain section of society.

    India has this going on for 60 years. Nothing new here folks.

  • Do I need to say this? We NEED MORE House of Cards discussion from a libertarian/liberty. Hell, I want ANY political discussion. No discrimination needed, just as long as long as it features House of Cards.

  • Is every outcome of market ethically and morally correct? Is the richest man the one who is most ethical and most moral?

  • "As a general principle we should be skeptical of politicians"
    We should also as a general principle be skeptical of free markets

  • ROFL… oh gods I am laughing my ass off on this dude. Everything you just presented is exactly the same reason only an idiot would trust a wealthy businessman. Same skill sets amigo, same skill sets, and the same snake-pit mentality.

  • hmm.. very interesting–suggesting the need for a limited government to prevent back channeling and individual interest on the part of politicians. I agree, but the problem is that this thought is often misinterpreted as "no government" and the end of public/welfare services, or government regulation. Perhaps a better word might be regulated government. We need government services, but what we don't need is some of the power vested in our politicians.¬†

  • Some here seemed to have missed the subtlety of his points. ¬†He didn't say "free market perfect, government always wrong". He said the INCENTIVES were different. This is completely verifiable. And incentives drive behavior. There is a tendency in an open market to please the mass of customers, because they have the money. You can make all the backroom deals you want, the people decide what to pay and what to pay for. On the other hand government needs no permission from the people, so the incentive isn't to please the masses, it's to gain power and manipulate the system in a way that best suits one's desires.¬†

     The byproduct of an open market is the customer usually wins. The byproduct of government power, is government gets bigger, and the people keep paying. Government has no natural incentive to be profitable, productive, or even remotely fiscally responsible. A politician or bureaucrat can manipulate it so his best friend, or her husband's company gets billions to do virtually nothing for nobody. 

     The only time the government gets any kind of accountability is extremely limited and you idiots divide so perfectly as to render it meaningless. The bureaucrats are completely safe. Only 536 of millions of government employees are ever voted upon by the public, and once they're in office, they've already positioned themselves to never lose again by manipulating all the free money the people are forced to pay to their advantage in campaigns. Couple this with uninformed voters. Non voters. And the majority of people so obsessed with the party line that you entirely ignore actual individual politicians (as they designed it), and you are completely manipulated into keeping them in power. 

     Is business perfect? No. Sometimes you get a Bernie Madoff. That's where government is ACTUALLY needed. There aren't only two possibilities, unlimited unchecked government expansion or anarchy. Neither of those are limited government. A concept some of you want to pretend doesn't exist. Just because one points out how easy it is for government to be corrupt and how hard it is for a company to do the same, doesn't magically mean all government is bad and all companies are good. You have to consider the incentives.

     There is a chasm that can not be crossed between these two realms. No office manager in a competitive company can simply channel billions to give his wife's corporation a free job. No branch of a company can put billions into research and development of garbage technology then scrap it and start over without any consequences. No business can take your money without your permission, then use it to expand its control over you, and then take even more from you when it claims it needs to fund its branches. You GIVE money to companies because they PROVIDE a product or service. Government TAKES your money, and you HOPE they provide ANYTHING with no accounting for waste. 

  • Typical and ironic.

    An interesting¬†discussion about politicians manipulating¬†for¬†votes and¬†self-interest…¬†which turns out to be¬†presented by a right-wing libertarian free-marketeer¬†looking to¬†manipulate people towards a "limited Government… market knows best" ideology. Convenient.

    And round and round it all goes ūüôā

  • There is not a country or any terrorist group in the world that is a threat to the American people's freedom or liberties. It is the American politician & law enforcement the politician wants to control & dominate the people. & law enforcement will be very happy to control , cage or kill us. Law enforcement will kill their own children for a pat on the head. They licked the feet of the rich & politically elite. The law enforcement of any country has been & always will be the enemy of the people.

  • in a nutshell the sheep will be busy till they die arguing about who they should elect to oppress and rule over them…there are so many Romes burning right now this planet looks like an efing birthday cake

  • Libertarians and Stalinists have in common 1) a belief that all human interactions are essentially commercial in nature, 2) a willingness to empower a privileged class with few or no checks, depending on their innate goodness, 3) a callous disregard for the suffering of individuals who fall into the gears of their grand machinery.

  • Woo woo wooooo, started out factual and then bam! out of nowhere 1:28 "unlike the market where pixies and rainicorns…etc". Where did that come from? All of a sudden you started spewing nonsense all over the screen. Damnit why does the USA have the most professional English speaking content creators and then proceed to use these skills on the most ludicrous nutbar bollocks? You're already miles off to the right from the rest of the civilized world, stop drinking the cool-aid, money can't make all your decisions for you and your lack of responsibility effects the whole world. Stop being crazy now.

    Anyhoows, personally I'm hoping the show raises a different question. What if all Frank Underwood's underhanded politicking is actually beneficial to the public? How ambivalent would you feel about the story then? (*Spoiler*) I mean the President is in the pocket of one of richest guys in the country and Frank takes them on with big balls and ambition. Who'd you rather have at the table sitting down with the heads of state of all the countries in the world, some weak-ass figurehead or manipulative c**t that gets shit thing done?

  • Politics is nothing but a theater design to control with all options leaving us as slaves to a small group of people. The answer is simple, privatize everything, introduce profit and loss to providing any public service.

  • This is why I am not in favor on Socialism as it creates a big government, and people like Francis Underwood can turn to be the leaders. However, I neither agree on a pure capitalism as it gives corporations too much power. This means corporate people will now buy politicians and can pay their workers however they wanted. I can give two easy examples of each. In socialism, we have Stalin, who turned a dream world into hell. Since Stalin held much power, he could do almost what he wanted to do, and manage the economy horribly. This led Russia into a poor country and deficient. Moreover, he killed millions because of mere fear. Meanwhile, pure capitalism can be seen with people like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Morgan who bought politicians so they could do whatever they wanted. Moreover, they paid their workers so low that they couldn't even buy food they needed. This happened until, Roosevelt took this away, and made the government bigger limiting their power.

    This is why a more moderate view would work better than an extreme view. We must have a socio-capitalism, like Sweden has. Where some areas are led by the government while others are led by private companies. For instance, while medicine is best socialize giving the chance for everyone to have health care, there will be private companies that would be selling cars or music.  

  • Wow, lots of free market haters commenting here.¬† I guess they don't understand the definition of mutual benefit or voluntary exchange.

  • "Unlike the market where mutually beneficial exchanges tend to produce unintended benefits for society" Disliked the video. First of all, unintended benefits are called externalities in economics. They do not register on the radar. The same story is with unintended harm to society. Secondly, Nash equilibrium often is not efficient. The fact that you believe that independent agents acting in their own interest produce the best possible society which benefits from those interactions shows how little you know on the subject of game theory. I bet you don't even know what "the price of anachy" concept means in game theory. Politicians who want to maximize their own personal gain are operating according to the same models than the market. There have to be rules imposed on them in order for the system to be efficient, otherwise it degrades. The state and the market are two different sides of the same coin.

  • I think the best thing people should do to send a message to politicians is to stop participating. Boycott anything and everything Washington. If we stop giving them our money like sheep, they would have to find something else to do besides rob us.

  • Of course this stupid Libertarian ignores the greedy businessman, Raymond Tusk. So according to Libertarians. A greedy businessman is good? At least politicians are elected. Businessmen are not elected, yet they have amazing amounts of power. Politicians come and go, the President can only rule for 8 years, but the CEO can be there for life. A billionaire can use his money to influence the game for their entire life, not just 8 years. And everything you said about manipulation and using others to further your own interests is exactly the same as high ranking Bankers and CEO's. They wouldn't of gotten to where they are if they didn't step on people. But no, according to you dumbass Libertards this is somehow good.

  • Mutually beneficial exchanges tend to produce unintended benefits for society? Really? That's one of the dumber things I've heard in a while.

  • Oh it gets so much worse! House of cards nearly down plays the brutal reality of true political shit! Look into the conspiracy theories like human cloning and eventually u will come across a Donald Marshall be sure to hear all he's got to say about what happens when the underwoods say good night and the cameras cut to that next morning! They are trying to send a wake up call message with this show! And it's as down played as possible to reach a mass market or demographic. Once anything goes too reality too true it gets the axe like dollhouse which if u mixed that show with orphan black and house of cards u may get an idea of what's beyond a quick glimpse a glance beyond the veil of secrecy

  • I have nearly zero respect for politicians. They are in fact much worse than pimps and drug dealers. People need to wake up.

  • if only people like George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, James Madison, Andrew Jackson, Jame Monroe, or Grover Cleveland got on top