Arnold Kling  

The Progressive Tantrum

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James Surowiecki writes,


People want the government to help provide jobs, but they also want it to cut the deficit.

His point is that people are inconsistent, so the government just has to ignore them and run a deficit to create jobs. I have two questions about this:

1. Is it really the case that people want the government to create jobs? I have seen many progressives and pundits claim that people are angry about jobs, but I have not seen any people clamoring for the government to create jobs.

2. Does the government know how to create jobs?

Kurt Andersen writes that the Founding Fathers did not want a democracy. Instead,


They wanted a government run by an American elite like themselves

Of course, they also wanted a government of limited powers, but that is not important, is it?

Later, Andersen writes,


the job of serious Washington grown-ups with big populist constituencies--both presidents Roosevelt, Reagan, even Richard Nixon--is to respond to the rage with the minimum necessary demagoguery, throw them a few bones to calm them down, and then make deals with your fellow members of the elected elite.

...In the old days, the elite media really did control the national political discourse; there were no partisan, splenetic cable news or ubiquitous talk-radio channels and no blogosphere to keep the populists riled up and make them feel the excitement of a mob. Until fifteen years ago, presidents and congressional leaders could pretty well manage the policy conversations, keep them on reasonable simmer. But the new technologies have, maybe permanently, turned up the political heat to boil.

Finally, from two months ago there is Thomas Friedman,

One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.

Everyone agrees that the Republicans are just throwing sand in the gears of good government and not offering any ideas. What that means is that they are not offering ideas to enlarge government. Congressman Paul Ryan's ideas do not count, because those would cut back on government, particularly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

My point here is not to champion Republicans. It is not to champion democracy. My point is that the ones throwing the temper tantrum right now are the Progressives. They think that the 2008 election gave them the right to operate like China's autocracy, and they are lashing out hysterically at those they perceive as preventing them from doing so On the one hand, the villains are a small minority in the Senate. Or maybe the villains are the incoherent majority of the people.

The important point is that Progressives are never wrong. Top-down reform is the only way to fix the health care system. Anthropogenic global warming is scientifically proven, and its solution requires strenuous exercise of political control over individual behavior. Deficit spending is necessary and sufficient to create jobs. Technocrats can make banks too regulated to fail. Markets without technocratic control are like adolescents without adult supervision. Individual happiness can be improved by political authorities using scientific knowledge. Concentrated political power is the wave of the future, and it is good.

I am not a populist. I fear the mob. But how can I fear the Progressives any less?


Comments and Sharing


CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (50 to date)
drobviousso writes:

See, you keep saying you aren't a Tea Partier, but you keep talking like one too.

Tom West writes:

Don't the progressives have the right to a tantrum? They finally got everything that should have given them the opportunity to get their policies enacted and they're *still* stone-walled by a combination of the 'enemy' and those on their side who want to keep their jobs.

I think if you want to find that sort of bitterness on the other side, look for the strong anti-abortion activists. They've had everything lined up their way (in theory) multiple times, yet Roe vs. Wade *still* stands. It's just one long history of working like dogs to get everything and then *bang* betrayed again. Right down the line.

The point is that *any* group that believes they have the chance to do the right thing and are unexpectedly denied that opportunity is going to be mad as heck, and yes, they'll be blaming the enemy, the process, and the inchoate populace.

Do you think if you saw "small government" policies snatched away at the last moment, you'd be any different?

It's always important to remember that your opponents are as sincere about their policies as you are about yours. They believe that their policies are as necessary to the long-term good of America as you believe your's are. This doesn't mean one should stop opposing their misdirected actions, but it helps to understand that they're are as human as you are.

Ryan writes:

"It's always important to remember that your opponents are as sincere about their policies as you are about yours."

Perhaps when you're talking about other economists or pundits, but not with the vast majority of our members of Congress who we see betray their supposed ideologies on a regular basis due to the most recent polling data.

Mercer writes:

" Congressman Paul Ryan's ideas do not count, because those would cut back on government, particularly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid."

The GOP leaders have not offered to support Ryan's proposal. They are doing the opposite by being against anything to control Medicare spending.

"What that means is that they are not offering ideas to enlarge government."

It also means they are against any concrete items to bring down the deficit. Palin and the GOP congressional leaders are against limiting Medicare and defense spending growth while at the same time they are for tax cuts.

"They think that the 2008 election gave them the right to operate like China's autocracy, and they are lashing out hysterically at those they perceive as preventing them from doing so "

Have they called for censoring the internet or jailing GOP members? Who is being hysterical?

Robert writes:

If Mitt Romney were to take the presidency in 2012 with 59 Republican senators and attempted to replace Medicare with a voucher system, replace Social Security with private retirement accounts, and end public sector unions ... only to be demagogued and forced into doing little by 41 Democrats in the Senate and seniors who don't understand the tradeoff between taxes and spending, I wonder if Arnold would react the same way?

David writes:

We have only had major expansion of the welfare state (Great Society and Great Depression) when 1) The Democrats had a big majority, 2) The bills had clear short term benefits with only long term downsides, 3) The economy was going well or appeared to be greatly improving.

Right now only item 1) is true. Perhaps Progressive's could learn some history before they get all condescending.

John Thacker writes:

Robert, are you being ironic with your hypothetical, or have you not noticed that your hypothetical already happened, at least with Social Security? A Republican President, Republican House, and substantial Republican Senate majority tried to make a small change allowing younger workers to put some of their money in private retirement accounts. It was demagogued and entirely stopped by a Democratic Senate minority and seniors who feared (wrongly) that their own Social Security would be cut.

And Arnold didn't react hysterically at all.

Mercer writes:

" Republican President, Republican House, and substantial Republican Senate majority tried to make a small change allowing younger workers to put some of their money in private retirement accounts. It was demagogued and entirely stopped by a Democratic Senate minority"

Neither branch of the GOP controlled congress voted in support Bush's plan. I don't think it was even offered for a congressional committee vote.

Bush did manage to give seniors drug coverage the same year he had a big tax cut. He did not let Democratic opposition stop him from spending money on seniors.

roo writes:

Arnold knocked it out of the park!

Robert writes:

John Thacker, my hypothetical did not happen because there were only 51 Republican senators in the 109th senate. That's barely a majority.

I am curious about how conservatives or libertarians would react if controlled the presidency, the House, and they had a 58/59 vote majority in the Senate and were still unable to pass legislation because of the filibuster, uninformed citizens, drug companies wanting to protect their subsidies, etc. "Government is working as planned!" ??

Robert writes:

Actually it looks like there was a 55 vote majority in 2005. Okay.

Still, are you saying that the fact the Social Security private account legislation failed for the reasons given above is a good thing?

Mike G writes:

"It's always important to remember that your opponents are as sincere about their policies as you are about yours."

Well, Tom, you let us know when your side remembers it, would you?

Rita writes:

[Comment removed pending confirmation of email address. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring this comment. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

Colin K writes:

@Robert

Speaking solely for myself, the SocSec reform bill never seemed to have nearly as much momentum as Obamacare. It was sent out on a suicide charge and given at most a half-hearted defense. Bush had emphasized SS reform when he ran in 2000, but with the Iraq War going badly, there seemed little energy left to mount more than a pro-forma campaign. So I, for one, was disappointed but not surprised when it died.

FWIW, SS reform is the #1 reason I supported Bush back in the day. I'd have gladly traded Medicare Part D and NCLB for increasing freedom here. That would have been like surrendering a knight and a bishop to take a queen. I think this needs to be considered in any evaluation of what W's intentions were. My take is that he believed in free-market reforms here but by 2004-5 he had to give up everything in order to maintain congressional support for the Iraq war.

thomass writes:

John Thacker writes:

"A Republican President, Republican House, and substantial Republican Senate majority tried to make a small change allowing younger workers to put some of their money in private retirement accounts. It was demagogued and entirely stopped by a Democratic Senate minority and seniors who feared (wrongly) that their own Social Security would be cut."

I think Bush even offered to do a bipartisan conference thing with everything on the table (ie, even dumping his own plan if a better plan could be thought up).

Contrast with Obama's offer. You can, maybe, ADD ideas to our cr*p plan to turn healthcare into a regulated utility.

mojavewolf writes:

"If Mitt Romney were to take the presidency in 2012 with 59 Republican senators and attempted to replace Medicare with a voucher system, replace Social Security with private retirement accounts, and end public sector unions ... "

It would be extraordinary if there were two prominent politicians named Mitt Romney. It would be even more extraordinary if the one we know tried to enact such policies. You do know this is the guy who helped create the pilot for ObamaCare, right?

I seem to recall the "dumb" Bush pushed through lots of highly controversial stuff with no more than 55 "R" senators. Maybe progressives shouldn't start policy debates by shutting out as many people as possible.

bpbatista writes:

You simply cannot get passed major reform legislation without popular support. If either SS reform or Obamacare had strong popular support they would have been enacted regardless of which party had a majority in Congress. Neither did. Welfare reform had strong public support and passed. Reagan's tax cuts and Bush's tax cuts had strong public support and passed.

First get the public to support your plan and Congress will jump on the bandwagon. Things rarely work if this order is reversed -- think immigration reform.

geokstr writes:
Mercer writes: Bush did manage to give seniors drug coverage the same year he had a big tax cut. He did not let Democratic opposition stop him from spending money on seniors.
Funny but I don't quite recall this "Democratic opposition" on Part D being anything more than whining about it not being much more expansive and expensive.

Truth is Bush was a RINO like McCain. He tossed a few bones to conservatives, like tax cuts and Roberts/Alito, but then went and did pretty much what the D's wanted: out-of-control spending, S-CHIP, NCLB, and lots of other leftism. Even the "War on Terror" was "patriotically" pursued on a bipartisan basis after 9/11 as evidenced by the histrionic, hysterical speeches of HRC and Kerry (who was for it until he was against it, or against it until he needed to be for it, or something). After that initial leftwing jingoism faded, then patriotism was once again re-defined to mean painting Hitler moustaches on GWB's pictures.

The only thing that Bush did to really PO the D's was to not lose to alGore.

SteveM writes:

>"If Mitt Romney were to take the presidency in 2012 with 59 Republican senators and attempted to replace Medicare with a voucher system, replace Social Security with private retirement accounts, and end public sector unions ... only to be demagogued and forced into doing little by 41 Democrats in the Senate"


You're lying to yourself. What's stopping the Democrats from passing health-care reform is that the American people hate the proposed changes. If you had the people with you, you could pass your bill with no problem. But you lost Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts! That is what has the Dems running scared, not 41 Republican Senators.

Ruby Burton writes:

Anthropogenic global warming has been scientifically proven? By whom? Not only has it been completely and thoroughly discredited recently as well as shown for the sham that it always was; but the major proponents of it have been called into question, charged with fraud, face stripping of their tenure, and demonstrated to be corrupt. One has even admitted to considering suicide since he can't handle the unbearable shame of having been involved with the deceit.

As for government, the Founding Fathers had it right: the people should support the government [financially], but the government should never support the people [financially]. It's a recipe for slavery as sure as any other. Don't believe me? Ask any senior or poor person who can't live without their monthly dole.

EBJ writes:

"Bush did manage to give seniors drug coverage the same year he had a big tax cut. He did not let Democratic opposition stop him from spending money on seniors."

Democrats were opposed to the drug benefit? Really? My recollection is that Bush wanted a benefit costing X but had to accept a bill costing much more than X (+40% or so from memory) in order to win enough Dem support to get it passed. Similar situation with NCLB: Repubs wanted testing and Teddy wanted more education money - way more education money. Obama would have you believe that Bush OWNS the NCLB and Medicare Drug spending but it seems to me that the Dems own it more than Bush does.

There's a lesson in there for Obama if he's interested in getting legislation passed. Going it alone and whining when it doesn't work out seems to have been an ill considered strategy. Even something as dumb as Bush would have......ummm, never mind.

NoDuh writes:

Ahhh the good old days... Kurt Anderson pines for the days when the elite media controlled the national political discourse. If we could just go back to letting the smart people run the show everything would be fine.

Kurt is an idiot who obviously didn't pay attention in school -

A) From Thomas Paine to William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass, to Upton Sinclair and Lewis Hine (to cite but five examples) America has had a long and rich tradition of political and social commentary from people that were NOT part of the Elite Media.

Kurt probably would have looked down his nose at THE LIBERATOR and surely would never have read such trash as COMMON SENSE. After all - they weren't part of the elite media.

B) "New technologies may have permanently turned up the political heat to boil".. well tough - we used to have ice trucks too until those new fangled refrigerator things came along. You can't put the genie back in the bottle - the internet is here and it ain't going away.

The real issue here is that there are smarter people than Kurt who are able to construct persuasive arguments that simply don't fit his agenda. Rather than win the battle of ideas, Kurt's solution is apparently to tell the little people to just shut up.

At the end of the day the only thing Kurt has revealed is what a smug elitist moron he is.

Micha Elyi writes:

progressive n. amalgamation of "pink" with "retrogressive"

David writes:

"I think if you want to find that sort of bitterness on the other side, look for the strong anti-abortion activists. They've had everything lined up their way (in theory) multiple times, yet Roe vs. Wade *still* stands. It's just one long history of working like dogs to get everything and then *bang* betrayed again. Right down the line."

@Tom West: Perhaps we run in different circles, but all the strong pro-lifers I hang with have given up on overturning RvW. They see this as a "hearts-and-minds" battle, not a legislative or judicial one.

As one of my friends put it, "If we can't convince women to stop aborting when it's legal, we'll never succeed when it's illegal."

Look at two recent major culture clashes as the model for where the pro-life movement is going: the mainstreaming of homosexuals, and the marginalization of smokers.

Twenty years ago, smokers were everywhere and homosexuals were nowhere. Now it's pretty much the other way around.

Both these changes are the product of long, patient, low-key, incremental campaigns to change the culture. Naturally, both have resulted in legislative action, on a somewhat limited basis: but in pretty much all such instances, the legislation was a trailing indicator.

If the progressives want to convince people to make big changes--to health care or anything else--they will need to convince them it's a good idea first. The old (19th-20th c.) Progressives understood this: apparently the modern version don't.

Robert writes:

@SteveM: Put aside the quality of the current HCR bill or whether the election of Scott Brown means anything. Is it really impossible to imagine the Republicans having a huge majority in the Senate yet being unable to do anything because of outdated procedural rules? Don't you want your party to be able to pass good domestic policy?

@EBJ / MojaveWolf -- I see some of you guys are arguing that Bush got plenty done with his congress. The problem is that his major acts were almost entirely deficit-financed spending and entitlements. Future policy is going to require taxes or cuts. It's completely different politically.

luagha writes:

I'll mention also that Bush and the Republicans in the Senate and House would not push legislation that they were told was going to be filibustered and couldn't be beaten. When it became clear that something wasn't going to move, they dropped it and stopped.

That's what happened to Bush's Social Security plan, and also to his banking/Fannie/Freddie reform attempt in 2005 that was shot down by Schumer and Frank that would have slowly deflated our current problems as opposed to letting them build to exploding.

SteveM writes:

Like so many other would-be autocrats, Kurt Anderson thinks that Federalist #10 is (a) The definitive word on the US Constitution, and (b) a call for minority rule and a criticism of the majority.

It's actually a critique of "faction", which Madison (somewhat vaguely ) describes as - "a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community".

Since opinions differ as to what precisely the "permanent and aggregate interests of the community" ARE, this is not a very useful guide to setting policy.

But it's clear that the limited-government federal republic which Madison calls for is not compatible with Andersons ideal of a country where the majority are like clay in the hands of some powerful "elite".

Mercer writes:

"Obama would have you believe that Bush OWNS the NCLB and Medicare Drug spending but it seems to me that the Dems own it more than Bush does."

Since the drug bill passed when the GOP controlled both branches of congress and was signed by a GOP president it is ridiculous to claim it is a Democratic law. Are you contending that the Dems held a gun to Bush's head and forced him to sign the bill?

"There's a lesson in there for Obama if he's interested in getting legislation passed."

The lesson is it is easier to pass an expensive new benefit if you don't try to pay for it.

SteveM writes:

>"Is it really impossible to imagine the Republicans having a huge majority in the Senate yet being unable to do anything because of outdated procedural rules?"


You're making up your own questions to get the answer you prefer - doing away with the filiuster so that the unpopular bill you favor can get passed.

In doing so you continue to miss the point. "Outdate procedural rules" (you're stealing a few bases there) are not your problem. Your problem is that your bill is radioactive with the American public.

From a political standpoint nothing would make me happier than to see the Dems ram this monstrosity through. Can you say "Republican Congressional majority in 2010"?

SteveM writes:

>"Since the drug bill passed when the GOP controlled both branches of congress and was signed by a GOP president it is ridiculous to claim it is a Democratic law."

They voted for it. Twenty-three Democratic Senators vote for the cloture vote. That makes it a Democratic law as a much as a Republican one.

D. Ch. writes:

The Democrats are furious because, deep down, they know they are undone by their own ideological childishness. If they had been willing to do the right thing about the Monica Lewinsky scandal and force Clinton from office, then Gore would have been president for several prosperous years by 2000 and have won that election handily. This would have meant no George Bush and the power to shape the initial response to bin Laden. If they had not interpreted affirmative action to mean nominating an obviously unready politician to the presidency, then when the stock market crashed they would have had 60 senators, the House of Reps., and a competent president, all ready to take charge in 2008. This unconscious recognition of the true source of their problems is what's really driving them crazy. Twice now they've potentially had it all and thrown it away because it would have been too painful to behave in a politically responsible manner...

ConservaDad writes:

"My point here is not to champion Republicans. It is not to champion democracy."

Ok, not a problem if you don't want to champion a particular political party. Totally your choice and I am all about you having the freedom to make the choice and to espouse your political opinions at length.

But why NOT champion democracy, the very system that allows (and in former times encouraged) the free flow of ideas that we are having here? This conversation could not happen in China which requires ISPs to rat out dissidents. This conversation couldn't be had in Cuba either, nor in Venezula, nor in many middle eastern countries if one happens to be female. So, though it may be chic or fashionable in some circles to be ambivalent about or even to oppose democracy, I'm wondering, if not democracy, what form of govt. WOULD you want to champion?

I find the comment very curious.

I do applaud your comment about Liberals thinking that Obama's election gave them a mandate to change anything about the govt. at their unilateral whim. It has been as if they think Obama's election nullified the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and 200+ years of law. My contention is that the firing of the President of General Motors by Obama is partially responsible for that attitude. It was a test to see how far he could go and what he could get away with. I see that action also as a Rahm-ulon attempt to strike fear into those who were key opponents to any of Obama's plans. Is Rahm another way of saying Hugo?

Anna Keppa writes:

" Until fifteen years ago, presidents and congressional leaders could pretty well manage the policy conversations, keep them on reasonable simmer."

What a larf --- anyone remember "The Pentagon Papers"? Anyone remember the Democratic Convention of 1968?

"But the new technologies have, maybe permanently, turned up the political heat to boil."

Yes, all that additional individual Free Speech (as opposed to print media pushing their agendas down the public's throat), all that unparalleled free flow of information (damn them intertubes!), are bad for American political life.

Only a crypto-totalitarian Progressive could make such an argument with a straight face.

Rob Crawford writes:

"uninformed citizens"

The citizens are uninformed because they disagree with you? Or, perhaps, they're well-informed and simply don't want to buy what you're peddling?


"drug companies wanting to protect their subsidies"

*snort*

Just keep telling yourself the O! administration isn't in bed with large companies. Maybe that way you'll be able to sleep at night.

"But why NOT champion democracy...?"

Because democracy is mob rule. We have a Republic, for which we can thank the Founders.

SteveM writes:

>"Because democracy is mob rule. We have a Republic, for which we can thank the Founders."

Democracy and republicanism are normally used as interchangable terms. Even Reagan used them that way. Strictly speaking, we have a democratic republic. You could even call it a democratic federal republic.

M. Report writes:

Economists speak of "the velocity of money";
Information also has a velocity, and a volume,
both amplified and made manageable by the Web,
which has the effect of accelerating the course
of events, or reducing reaction times, with
major quantitative, and perhaps qualitative,
changes in the way society reacts to events,
whether Hi-speed trading on the stock market,
or local politics going national, as in Mass.

Think of it as no longer being able to get away
with legislative lying and legere-de-main, now
that the cameras are always watching, and some
are capturing every move at a thousand frames a
second.

As to Mob vs Elite: I will take my chances with
greed vs fanaticism any day; Didn't some dead
white Englishman say something like that ?

MW writes:

Mercer writes:

Have they called for censoring the internet or jailing GOP members? Who is being hysterical?

Well, since you asked...

Koblog writes:

Tom West said, ...your opponents are as sincere about their policies as you are about yours. They believe that their policies are as necessary to the long-term good of America as you believe your's are.

That is really naive, Mr. West.

You know very well that there are opponents who are working very hard to destroy this Nation. They do not want "the long-term good of America." They want to overturn the Constitution. Obama is one of them: he told us he thinks the Constitution is "too restrictive" and is a "list of negative rights" that limit the scope of the Federal Government.

Then there are outright enemies amongst us: those who honor and admire Mao, Che and Chavez. Not to mention the Islamics who overtly want Sharia law to replace the Constitution and, barring that, to rain death upon us.

There are opponents that have no problem stealing honestly-acquired wealth from some and giving it to their political allies to assure their continued power.

There are opponents that believe the Supreme Court should have the last word in everything, who are more comfortable with a king than a representative republic.

There are opponents that are just fine with our education system that is simultaneously bankrupting us and failing to educate.

No, Mr. West. You are living in a dreamworld if you honestly believe all sides want the best for America.

Loof writes:

Actually, accusing Tom West of being “really naïve” appears as psychological projection of a True Believer absolutely believing that Obama is “one of them” wanting to destroy America.

In the main, Mr. West is correct with exceptions on all sides no doubt, especially at the extremes, left and right. Nonetheless, L thought the Red Scare and commies under the bed type of childishness went the way of the dinosaur a generation ago.

Swan Trumpet writes:

Arnold Kling "I am not a populist. I fear the mob. But how can I fear the Progressives any less?"

I'm uncomfortable with conservatives proudly proclaiming they are the mob precisely because Carl Sandburg - the American populist poet - was a socialist. His famous poem I Am the People, the Mob praises the mob for its socialist ideology.

I realize that those who wear the "I am the Mob" emblem are doing so with sarcasm, yet knowing the history behind the phrase, I still find it objectionable.

Yancey Ward writes:

Tyrant wannabees and their bootlickers always show their true colors in the end. Sometimes they acquire power first, before you know it, sometimes they don't. When it is the latter, they whine and whine and whine.

Yancey Ward writes:

Tyrant wannabees and their bootlickers always show their true colors in the end. Sometimes they acquire power first, before you know it, sometimes they don't. When it is the latter, they whine and whine and whine.

Dave writes:

[Comment removed for supplying false email address and for rudeness. Email the webmaster@econlib.org to request restoring this comment. A valid email address is required to post comments on EconLog.--Econlib Ed.]

RickRussellTX writes:

"But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today..."

If I was drinking coffee, it would now be all over my monitor.

The rest of his column is equally horrifying.

JB writes:

"Tyrant wannabees and their bootlickers always show their true colors in the end."

Obama is a tiresome tyro of a wannabe tyrant, trying America's temper.

MernaMoose writes:

ConservaDad,

But why NOT champion democracy....

I agree that democracy has brought us many good and great things. Open discourse and debate chief among them. You are right on, going that far. But there is nonetheless good reason to oppose democracy as we currently know it.

Have you read any public choice theory? It helps us understand that the problem with democracy, is that "the public interest" is effectively left with no one and nothing to defend it against the endless attacks of small, highly organized special interests. It is inevitable that the kind of mess we currently have, is going to be where a democracy ends up.

The argument that we have a republic and not a democracy, while there is truth and wisdom to it, does not solve the basic problem I'm raising here. It only helps to slow down the inevitable end-game train wreck.

Consider: Industry X comes up with a scheme to rip off $1 from every person in America. They are a small group of people, highly organized and highly determined. They spend vast amounts coming up with nice window dressings to make their scheme look good in the public eye. Good enough, at minimum, to get legislation passed to favor their attempt.

As an individual citizen how much time and effort do you have, to invest in fighting these fiends? Assuming you ever find out who they even are. For the sake of $1, it is in your rational interest to just ignore it.

The problem is that these kinds of little groups accumulate over time and soon we're talking real money. Except that it's spread out so thinly, a few dollars here, a few more over there. You, Joe Citizen at large, will never have the resources to track down and do away with all these fiends. They're too well organized and besides, they've probably gotten the politicians to pass legislation that protects them legally. So you can't stop them even if you know who they are, and what they're up to (consider the AMA cartel for just one example).

Small organized groups are what drive politicians, who are in the business of buying votes -- by whatever means necessary. And no, the root of the problem is not that We The People are so stupid to vote for the politicians we do. The root of the problem is that, democracy as we know it provides every incentive for politicians be exactly the kinds of animals that we know they are.

Economic axiom: people respond to incentives. In a democracy, elected politicians have all the wrong incentives.

For more on all of this see these (both on Amazon)

_The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups_ by Mancur Olson
_Beyond Politics: Markets, Welfare, and the Failure of Bureaucracy_ by William Mitchell and Randy Simmons


btw, I have no alternative to offer in place of the system we've got. Every other idea I've heard is even worse. But we badly need an improvement, and evolutionary step forward in the implementation of our whole concept of democracy. Basically I'm saying that what we need, is a better idea.

I find the comment very curious.

That's why you'll hear me (and others) denouncing democracy. Hope that helps answer your question.

steve writes:

Obama is a tyrant. Obama cannot get his bills passed. Make up your mind.

Not your best article Arnold. You know as well as anyone that everything you wrote here has been true of conservatives coming from the opposite direction. Also, do you really think that Ryan's plan has any chance of getting support or passing even with a huge Republican majority? Look at past voting patterns and explain how seniors would respond to losing Medicare AND Social Security.

Steve

Obvious Man writes:
The important point is that Progressives are never wrong.

You mean a group of people think their beliefs are right? GASP! Whatever shall we do?

At least no other political group is so fanatical and close minded to think they have the right solutions.

dan writes:

“Create jobs” can refer to two different things. It can mean literally the government hires people and thus creates those jobs. It can also mean the government temporarily increases spending/reduces taxes and output and employment increase relative to a situation where the government takes no action. People prefer being employed to being unemployed, so yes it’s fair to say people support the government “creating” jobs.

Progressives are angry because they think the 2008 election gave them the right to put into effect the policies they campaigned on. They are lashing out because the American political system is incredibly resistant to policy changes in the face of a unified opposition party that correctly perceives its optimal political strategy to be one of obstruction and relentless antagonism. Most political systems, it goes without saying, are not like this at all, and therein lies progressive anger.

Top-down reform may not be the only to fix health care, but it’s the central plank of the Democratic Party’s platform. The Democratic Party which controls the Presidency, 59 of 100 Senate seats, and 250+ House seats. Certainly they have the right to implement the policies they advocate, no?

Anthropogenic global warming really is a fact, and you make yourself look foolish to call it into question. Given that global GHG emissions need to come down to avoid the bad consequences of global warming, the “strenuous exercise of political control over individual behavior” (i.e. law) seems a pretty unobjectionable course of action.

“Individual happiness can be improved by political authorities”? Well, yeah, to the extent depression-causing financial crises can be avoided/ameliorated through prudent regulation, bailouts or temporary nationalizations, and counter-cyclical monetary and fiscal policy.

A fine madness writes:

This is what is so confusing to most observers.

Obama is an alleged socialist tyrant who, at the same time, cannot pass his key legislation due to a minority party and Quislings in his own party with ties to the industry at the center of the legislation (Mrs. Bayh).

Progressives are the frightening mob to some commentators yet they have never murdered their opponents (Tiller, Berg), blown up federal buildings or set off bombs to terrorize their fellow citizens (Oklahoma City, Atlanta Olympics), or developed an underground economy to fund their activities (Koch family, Rev. Sun Young Moon)?

Americans have repeatedly given positive poll answers for health care reform that includes nationalisation (e.g. http://act.boldprogressives.org/cms/sign/natpollresults121809/, http://www.fivethirtyeight.com/2009/12/in-polls-much-opposition-to-health-care.html), but the minute someone calls it Obamacare they seem to reject it despite its economic advantages for them. Ad hominems as the razor to cut off one's nose to spite one's face?

Teabaggers (self-labeled) began protesting that Obama was a socialist who would take away their government programs (medicare and Social Security, http://images.google.com/images?hl=en&client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&hs=lAU&q=teabagger%20medicare%20sign&oq=&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&tab=wi).

Republicans are the responsible party that stands against big government, handouts, Keynesian policies, fiscal responsibility and taxes, yet financed wars on credit, lowered taxes to "starve the beast", squandered a fiscal surplus, increased entitlement spending, and is presently trying to switch our defense contracting (e.g. Shelby's French aerial tankers, KBR using foreign subcontractors, purchasing foreign made armaments) to foreign sources, including our last major manufacturing jobs?

How does this nation manage to function day to day with so many contradictory notions operating simultaneously?

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