Oklahoma State Representative Jason Murphey

Chairman Government Modernization Committee

Oklahoma Osage Shield

Why would you want to do that?


It was a question proffered to me by a wise Edmond resident: "Why would you want to do that?"

The Edmond resident was responding to my visits to his home as I sought his vote during my initial effort to win election to the House of Representative.

His response caught me off guard. He genuinely seemed to believe that I was going down a bad path in my attempt to become a "politician". He clearly didn't want to be a responsible party to this "bad decision" and he wasn't eager to encourage me.

Time and again he had likely seen fresh-faced, enthusiastic individuals sign up for government service only to eventually become corrupted.

At that time I didn't completely appreciate the wisdom of this individual. I attempted to convince him that "yes, I really believe I should do this" and was initially frustrated by his reluctance to share my vision.

Over the years, as I have served in the State Legislature I have thought back on his words of caution and I have gained a special appreciation for his wisdom.

I see how the conveyance of power changes people. I have observed that human beings are not naturally equipped to cope with prolonged endowment of power -- either real or perceived.

I believe those who are considering a tenure in public service should follow a series of best practices designed to stay centered and resistant to the de-evolutionary effects of power.

Here's a key secret to avoiding the power trap: office holders should live a regular lifestyle with a balanced work and family life.

They must avoid the lifestyle of the political class.

If at all possible, the office holder should go directly home at the end of the work day. He should avoid parties, events and other nightlife with the other members of the political class. Time spent with the family will be much more profitable and will keep the office holder better focused on the real world.

For many policy makers, associating with the state's most powerful is an intoxicating experience. They become personally acquainted with the decision makers in just about every venue of government and the business world.

To at least a few unfortunate individuals, the making of these relationships may tend to lead to the perception that they are "above the law" and can get away with doing things that those without these same relationships could never do.

Every so often one of these policy makers finds out the hard way that they are not above the law. It's at this time that the public becomes aware of the fact that the co-optive effects of power have claimed yet another soul.

I still very much respect those who want to serve in elective office; that said, those who are considering public service are very well-advise to learn from the mistakes of politicians past and to determine that they will not allow the same to happen to them.

Power changes people and one of the best strategies for surviving its co-optive effects is to severely limit the amount of exposure to the artificial world of the state's elite and powerful.

Jason Murphey