The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the OthersBruce Chapman

About the Book

Americans love to trash their politicians as corrupt and self-interested, but they don’t agree on a solution. How can America attract good leaders to the thousands of elective offices in the land? In Polticians: The worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others, Bruce Chapman lays out a bold plan for the changes we need to make in our public life if we are serious about enable worthy leaders to emerge to and to succeed. Drawing on history as well as his own extensive experience in politics and public policy, Chapman challenges the conventional wisdom about politicians, arguing that their chief rivals — the media, bureaucrats, college professors, and even political “reform” groups — are often sources of further political demoralization rather than renewal. Republicans and Democrats alike, conservatives and liberals, have a stake in responding to the stirring and provocative challenge raised by this book.

About the Author

Bruce K. Chapman worked on national and local campaigns as a young man out of Monmouth, Illinois and Harvard College in the 1960s, started a magazine (Advance: A Journal of Political Thought), was an editorial writer for The New York Herald-Tribune, co-authored (with George Gilder) The Party That Lost its Head, and wrote The Wrong man in Uniform, an early argument for an all-volunteer military.

He was part of a reform slate on the Seattle City Council in the 1970s, was elected Secretary of State of Washington twice, lost a race for Governor, was chosen Director of the U.S. Census Bureau under President Reagan in 1981 and then served as a Deputy Assistant to the President in the White House. In the late 1980s he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Organizations in Vienna. Back in Seattle in 1991, he founded Discovery Institute, a public policy think tank that supports research on science, culture, economics, technology, transportation, national defense, and civic leadership. He currently serves as Chairman of the Board for the Institute and director of its Chapman Center on Civic Leadership. He and his wife, Sarah, live in Seattle with their grown children and growing grandchildren.



Politicians … is a great read for young and old who want to understand representative government from the inside. The young will be informed, and the old entertained. And both will be inspired by the need for constructive citizenship. We need this book now.

Edwin Meese III, former Attorney General of the United States

In Politicians, Bruce Chapman offers an insightful look at the players and practitioners of politics and an encouragement to those who want to participate in the political process. I recommend it highly.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers

In this insightful and highly readable book, Bruce Chapman is telling us that politicians are only human and that we “can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.’  Criticism of government leaders is good fun and all-American up to a point, but in the end, self-government requires a degree of confidence and toleration that Chapman wisely reminds us is in need of repair. 

Mitch Daniels, President of Purdue University, former Governor of Indiana

Front Flap

There are hundreds of thousands of elective offices in America, from courthouse to White House. There often are many candidates for each office. But almost no one answers the question, “What does it mean to be a politician?” Now, looking to history, current affairs, and his own experiences, Bruce Chapman tells what it means, and, doing so, defends with contrarian gusto the human beings who make the principle of representative democracy work.

Politicians: The Worst Kind of People to Run the Government, Except for All the Others employs stories and anecdotes that will entertain and inspire both young and old, conservatives and liberals. Mr. Chapman proposes a revival of robust and fair political debates to aid the voters’ discernment. He reproves the growing competitors of politicians, the “middlemen” who seek political power without political accountability—the media, bureaucracy, academia, lobbyists, “reform” organizations, technology czars and “direct democracy” activists.

In the present day, encouraging people of good character and talent to enter politics seems to get less attention than forging new laws and regulations, and promoting lawsuits, to shackle politicians. But Bruce Chapman contends that candidates and elected leaders, for all their failings (which the author is happy to describe), are yet the most reliable and direct advocates of the sovereign people.

Bruce Chapman

Cofounder and Chairman of the Board of Discovery Institute
Bruce Chapman has had a long career in American politics and public policy at the city, state, national, and international levels. Elected to the Seattle City Council and as Washington State's Secretary of State, he also served in several leadership posts in the Reagan administration, including ambassador. In 1991, he founded the public policy think tank Discovery Institute, where he currently serves as Chairman of the Board and director of the Chapman Center on Citizen Leadership.