I missed this when it was first published, but two weeks ago the Economist ran an interesting analysis of the professions that produce politicians. There’s a strong geographic pattern: In Africa, you see more ex-military politicians; in China, engineers; in France, civil servants. And in America? Lawyers, of course. Over half our U.S. Senators have practiced law, and Obama’s cabinet is filled out with law school grads.
But in recent years, there’s a new trend emerging: Politicians whose previous career was, well, politics.
The emergence of politics as a career choice has been made possible . . . by a penumbra of quasi-political institutions—think-tanks, consultancies, lobbying firms, politicians’ back offices. They have increased job opportunities for would-be politicians. Increasingly, therefore, the road to a political career leads through politics itself, starting as an intern, moving to become researcher in a parliamentary or congressional office, with a spell in a friendly think-tank or lobby group along the way. . . [T]he trend is unlikely to stop. The intrusive demands upon aspiring members of any American administration make it harder for outsiders to enter politics. (The Obama team asked applicants, “If you have ever sent an…e-mail, text message or instant message that could…be a possible source of embarrassment to you, your family or the President-Elect if it were made public, please describe.”) For good or ill, politics is becoming its own profession.