My natural home is in the bipartisan center, arguing with center-right reality-based technocrats about whether it is center-left or center-right policies that have the best odds of moving us toward goals that we all share--world peace, world prosperity, equality of opportunity, safety nets, long and happy lifespans, rapid scientific and technological progress, and personal safety. The aim of governance, I think, is to achieve a rough consensus among the reality-based technocrats and then to frame the issues in a way that attracts the ideologues on one (or, ideally, both) wings in order to create an effective governing coalition.
The most prominent nationalist candidate this year was Sherrod Brown, who unseated incumbent Senator Mike DeWine in Ohio, a state that has lost 200,000 manufacturing jobs since George W. Bush became president. Mr Brown is the author of a book called Myths of Free Trade: Why American Trade Policy Has Failed. Here is a snippet from one of his television advertisements: “Sherrod Brown stood up to the president of his own party to protect American jobs, fighting against the Mexico and China trade deals that sent countless jobs oversees.” For some reason, economic nationalists never seem to complain about job-killing Dutch or Irish competition. The targets of their anger are consistently China and Mexico, with occasional whacks at Dubai, Oman, Peru and Vietnam.
In Brad's ideal world, he and Andrew Samwick (say) are technocrats who are given free rein to design social insurance, tax incentives, research priorities, and so forth, while elected officials keep the people at bay. (Come to think of it, I thought Bryan sounded similarly elitist.)
There are only two problems with this.
1. The technocrats occasionally make large errors, which tend to persist far longer than market failures.
2. Even when the technocrats are wise, the political process is never going to coincide with DeLong's fantasy.
The fantasy-based community of would-be philosopher-technocrats waits for a receptive cohort of political leaders the way that Cubs fans wait for their team to make the World Series. Life is one big gripe-fest about present disappointments, and next year we are going to see the world set right.