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« Tony Snow For White House Snow Job | Main | Disappearing Blogger »

April 27, 2006



i suppose that this:

"But have you noticed that a politician rarely leaves the public stage unless compelled by voters, scandal, ill health or old age?"

fails to apply to cheney since he's not really a politican anymore but a more of a puppeteer.

thanks for the great posts! i'm an avid reader.

Sometimes it's more interesting to think of "what might have been" than what actually is or was. While John Keats and Edgar Allan Poe were undeniably talented, a large part of their fame (esp. Keats, because he died younger than Poe and was not as productive or influential, and Poe's death is notorious in part because of the mystery that surrounds it) probably results from that unfulfilled promise.

Could the artist who retires at the height of his or her career be part of that phenomenon? There might be concerns about becoming repititious or unoriginal, or of not being able to live up to the promise of earlier works.

One odd idea might be that retiring from a public life -- that is, ceasing to live that life altogether -- is a sort of ultimate suicide fantasy. The person of course continues to live, but there is a conscious decision to stop living that public life, and perhaps even to become a different self (a clean existential break, if you will).

Evan, thanks for reading. Let me know when I start to bore you.
I agree that Cheney is going nowhere without completing his mission. But it is reported that Bush does not seek out Uncle Cheney's advice too much anymore.

Joe, I understand our preoccupation with "what might have been" when a public figure withdraws. I am more curious about why they do it.

Politicians, teachers, lawyers, preachers, social workers, doctors etc. - those whose jobs involve working for others, rarely leave public life abruptly. But those who live by their creative aptitude - writers, scientists and actors are more prone to reclusiveness.

At some level, the existential break probably relates to a sense of losing control - which may well be the fear of losing one's spark or freshness of vision. In Bill Watterson's case though, it appears that he militated against the over commercialization of his creation by the syndicating agency.

I did some quick fact checking, and it appears that the discrepancy between the two types of public figures you mention (the public servants and the creative types) comes from both directions. That's not worded very clearly, but it's late and I should be going to bed.

The average American retirement age is now 63. The average retirement age of a Member of Congress is significantly higher than that: 68.3 for those retiring under FERS, and 75.5 for those retiring under CSRS. I have no idea what the difference is, but here's the link:

Is the issue power? Helping people? Some combination of those factors, or something I'm overlooking? I don't know--BUT it does appear clear that there is some sort of causal connection (but in which direction?) between public service and working later in life.

I do believe that there is a correlation between public service and a longer tenure in public life.

That doesn't mean that some creative types don't hang around for a long time. Most do. But the recluses overwhelmingly belong to the creative class. On the other hand, those who believe that they have power over other people's destinies, tend to stick to their mission more tenaciously. Perhaps that explains why many in Hollywood and in other artistic arena become activists. And the perception of power can be of the political type or of the spiritual and altruistic variety. Bottom line, as long as people feel they can make a difference in the world order, they are reluctant to retire.

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