Arnold Kling  

Political Long Tail, Revisited

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Out of the blue, Newsweek's Andrew Romano quoted me, citing something I wrote over two years ago. It was an essay about the conflict between mainstream politicians and what I called the "Long Tail" of politics.

If we had a parliamentary system with proportional representation, the Long Tail would consist of many splinter parties, including some parties that are ethnocentric, a variety of Greens, a variety of libertarians, single-issue activists, and parties which are outside of today's classifications. The Long Tail is a motley assortment of political misfits, wing nuts, and sober independents.

In the article, I predicted that the traditional two parties would try to hang on by a combination of increased pork and increased theatrics. However, I predicted that more people would feel alienated from mainstream politics.

The last session of Congress seems to me to be consistent with those predictions. The volume of pork remained high--not just earmarks, but energy and agriculture bills that were almost pure pork. There was a lot of theatrics, particularly concerning Iraq funding. And polls showed very low public support for Congress.

The solution I proposed was Virtual Federalism.

A Ralph Nader supporter who happens to live in Texas could form a virtual state with like-minded individuals in Massachusetts and Oregon. A libertarian in San Francisco could join a state with ideological allies in Orange County and New Hampshire.

Virtual Federalism cannot address issues of local land use, nor can it resolve conflicts over foreign policy. But I think it's the only way that libertarians could ever enjoy a semblance of the sort of government we would prefer.

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CATEGORIES: Political Economy

COMMENTS (2 to date)
Adam Ruth writes:

I've long thought that the geographical constraints of nations and states would start to disintegrate. It's inevitable as people, products, and information increasingly cross national boundaries. Nations will try to hold on to their cohesive control, but I can envision some nimble, creative states operating like a business and pushing the envelope on what services they provide, and where. I can't predict what it will look like, but I can guess it will be interesting.

John Fast writes:

I would love to have a system of virtual federalism; until then, a system of Proportional Representation for elections to the U.S. House of Representatives, and to state legislatures, would get us about halfway there.

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