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The politician: a public health problem?


A triad of risk factors jeopardises the health of the nation

In the late 1960s I was strongly influenced by Professor Alan Davies, the then Professor of Political Science at the University of Melbourne, among whose many interests were the behavioural characteristics of politicians.

In 1971, I considered going to Yale University to undertake a PhD in psychopolitics, but fate intervened and instead I became involved first-hand in politics in Canberra for 2 years.

In Parliament House in Canberra, I came to recognise a triad of characteristics among its inhabitants: sleeplessness; isolation; and boredom. To this day, these characteristics appear common in the lives of politicians. They contribute to the pathology of government.

In addition, the attitudes of politicians have been linked to low self-esteem and hatred, the impact of which has been underestimated in many conversations about political motives.

Harold Lasswell, the American sociologist remembered for his definition of politics as “the study of who gets what, when, and how”, suggested that aspiring politicians have unusually low self-esteem. It can be a driving factor in those individuals becoming politicians and their search for power.1

Henry Adams, the great grandson of the second United States President, observed that “politics, as a practice, whatever…