Bryan Caplan  

Why Only Bush Could Bring Socialism to America

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Wishful Thinking... Where Are the Demagogues When ...

Recent events remind me of Cowen and Sutter's 1998's article on "Why Only Nixon Could Go to China." From the abstract: "Right-wing politicians sometimes can implement policies that left-wing politicians cannot, and vice versa. Contemporary wisdom has it that 'only Nixon could have gone to China.' The authors develop a model to explain this phenomenon."

Now Cowen and Sutter have a functionalist model where everythings happen for a good reason. But we can easily drop this Panglossian baggage. Let's suppose there is an Inane Policy that party X tends to favor. If party X pushes for it, though, party Y will make a big stink about it, and the Inane Policy will blow up in party X's face. So what hope does the Inane Policy have of coming to pass? Not much - unless party Y decides to give the Inane a chance.

I suspect that's what we're seeing now. If a Democratic president were backing a $700B bail-out, I have to think that Republicans would be crying "Socialism!" But if a Republican president does the same, the bail-out's natural enemies keep silent out of loyalty or ingroup bias. It's a lot like the contemporary Republican reaction to Nixon's price controls - if our boy is doing it, how bad can it be?

The scary thing is that once party Y gives the Inane a chance, party X may be able to finish the job without credible resistance. After party Y surrenders the rhetorical high ground by embracing the Inane, what's to stop party X from making Inanity a way of life?


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COMMENTS (12 to date)
Dr. T writes:
If a Democratic president were backing a $700B bail-out, I have to think that Republicans would be crying "Socialism!"
I'm don't believe that would happen. Big business often does best when it forgoes capitalism and uses the government to block competitors and give it goodies (subsidies, research grants, non-competitive contracts, special tax breaks, etc.). Since the Republicans tend to like big business, I doubt they would block such a proposal even if it came from a Democrat. When Clinton was president, the Republicans supported his proposed laws that gave businesses government largesse.
dearieme writes:

Some of us spotted Bush as a leftie from the beginning.

Nicholas Collard writes:

Like Clinton signing a bill to end Welfare or Bush1 raising taxes. Like John Tyler signing a bill to allow interstate banking.

Nixon's price controls did not lead to the legitizimation of price controls.

So ... The adoption of a bad policy by a party nominally opposed to it doesn't necessarily lead to disaster.

Randy writes:

There hasn't been a conservative in office since Coolidge. And despite the occasional reactionary (e.g., Reagan), there has been nothing but a steady move in the direction of Progressive Fascism since... 1787.

icr writes:

Right, W was only stylistically "right-wing" (the TX drawl, "Jesus is my favorite philosopher", etc.). How much of it was a cynical act and how much was a matter of internalizing the dominant left-liberal gestalt may be a somewhat interesting question.

8 writes:

This is why Obama is most likely to cut Social Security and Medicare.

Kurbla writes:

It happens, but it is nothing strange. Using metaphor of war, leftist party making leftist decision is like winning the battle for some city or village; rightist party making leftist decision is like retreat; less blood, but causes and consequences are similar. Sometimes "retreat" is not wise. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is trait. Sometimes it is corruption. Overall, there is nothing special about that phenomenon.

Answer on the question "what's to stop party X to make Inanity way of life" is - voters. Voters are ultimate source of power in democracy. If they do not like decision, they'll not vote for X. If they think that Y are traitors, they'll vote for Y2. On the other side, if citizens like decision, then you're just in minority.

Derek Scruggs writes:

I'm pretty sure they cried Socialism when Clinton loaned $20 billion to Mexico back in the early 90s.

Lord writes:

Kleptocracy

Tom Grey writes:

On economic policy, I have long argued that the President will most likely do more spending the way the OTHER party likes.
Because he leads his party AND, in doing what the other party likes, he defuses opposition.

That's why voting for the President who you disagree with MORE in economics is more likely to get econ policy you like.

This doesn't quite match with Foreign Policy/war, nor with US SC appointments.

So despite my feeling that Obama would be better in practice for the economy, McCain is better on Iraq & US SC.

Bill Butler writes:

The big three used to all about cars. In a Corporate world it will be about divisions. There will be three, USA, Russia, and China. As we seem to be moving closer to becoming the same the Billionaires are getting even richer. Not a bad thing if you are of the big three control groups. And of course there will be the old "third world" which becomes the worker subdivisions.

Right, pretty much the same as it is now. All the prime officials and their immediate governing groups ride in security protected vehicles and live in palaces. There will always be those who govern and those they govern and whatever you call the system, like the saying goes, "A Rose by any other name is still a Rose." Or more up-to-date of course, "Put lipstick on a Pig and it's still a Pig."

Be calm and be good little followers and do not make waves and you will get to keep eating Steak!

Remember those poor Vietnamese that would suffer the ills of communist domination if we lost the just cause we fought. Say, got your vacation planned yet? Hear Vietnam is a great location with out the terrorist threats and all.

Oh, and now we cannot afford to loose the Iraq, (Is it a War?) conflict. What will become of Iraq if we leave, why it might turn out like Vietnam! Is that a bad thing? I think when we left peace broke out, did it not?

On a most serious note: God bless the United States of America. Vote and be heard. Thanks for letting me run on, it is Friday after all and I worry about the color pink for paper on Mondays. And I am a tired old Vietnam Vet who is upset because I do not have P.T.S.D.! (No money for that)

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