Arnold Kling  

Is Government a Menace?

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The (Potential) Enemies List... What I've Been Reading...

Yesterday, President Obama said,


When our government is spoken of as some menacing, threatening foreign entity, it ignores the fact that in our democracy, government is us. We, the people -- (applause.) We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our laws, and shape our own destiny.

Government is not "us." Government is a relatively small handful of people with far too much power. Their exercise of vast powers is neither moral, Constitutional, nor effective. The power of the people does not include the power to stop bailouts or to stop health care reform. The power to elect our leaders is a very weak power. Our laws are passed by a Congress that, rather than enjoying the support of the vast majority of Americans, is according to polls opposed by the vast majority of Americans.

The Washington Post headlined President Obama's speech "a fiery plea for civility." Basically, he was calling on people to submit to his will and that of his party. But just as I would never donate money to a charity that gives to billionaires, I will not support the expansion of power for those who already exercise far too much.

I am willing to forego the use of the term "fascist" to describe our current government. The amount of physical intimidation that we face today is nothing compared to what people faced under Hitler.

However, Hitler did not just get the reluctant obedience of those who feared the violence of his government. He obtained most of his support from people who willingly looked up to him as representing the German "us." The shocking thing about German history is not the people who reluctantly submitted to Hitler's authority under threat. It is the people who were attracted by his fiery pleas.

Yes, government is a menace. It is less of a menace in the U.S. today than it was in Germany in 1933. But it is a menace. The pundits who denounce those of us who disagree with the government are a larger menace. The many intellectuals in this country who concoct rationales for even greater government power are the largest menace of all.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (24 to date)
Randy writes:

Obama believes that the problem is the statement of the fact, rather than the fact.

SydB writes:

Mr Kling said: "I am willing to forego the use of the term "fascist" to describe our current government" and "However, Hitler did"

Shorter version: I'm willing to not call them fascists but will essentially do so anyway.

Mr Kling Said: "Government is a relatively small handful of people with far too much power. Their exercise of vast powers is neither moral, Constitutional, nor effective. "

Yeah. Mobs are much better.

Mr Kling wrote: "The many intellectuals in this country who concoct rationales for even greater government power are the largest menace of all."

This is absurd. Your hyperbole undermines everything you say. Seriously, have you considered giving up the Foucaultian power "studies" more of argumentation and getting back to economics?

Philo writes:

I applaud your opposition to "[t]he many intellectuals in this country who concoct rationales for even greater government power"; it is sad to see statism embraced and promoted by people who are intelligent enough to know better. But I don't think the mass of people can be completely excused. You write: "The power of the people does not include the power to stop bailouts or to stop health care reform." Well, the opposition of a *bare majority* of the people to bailouts or health care "reform" is not sufficient, but if enough people--a super-majority--were strongly opposed, these programs would not be instituted. The people will get what the vast majority of them strongly want. If only they used more wisdom in forming their preferences!

Darin writes:

If government is a menace, what is your alternative? Anarchy? Well it's doubtful you are willing to go to that extreme. So maybe what you're concerned about is how governments govern. But the only way to affect the problems you see is to participate in the process.... convince others in the correctness of your ideas or the ones you support... thus government reflects the collective will of the people. It seems to me that your complaint takes you right back to the Obama quote.

Boonton writes:

Our laws are passed by a Congress that, rather than enjoying the support of the vast majority of Americans, is according to polls opposed by the vast majority of Americans.


$1,000 if you can name one Congressperson who was not elected with a majority of the voters in his or her district (not counting those appointed to fill out terms of ones that vacated their seats)*


By 'opposed by the vast majority of Americans' you mean people in Texas don't like the people NY elects and vice versa. But somehow I don't think the people of NY would feel more empowered if Texas was given veto power over their choices. Why do you seem to imply this?

All in all I agree that the power to elect leaders is relatively weak but it is, nevertheless, the most decentralized type of gov't ever created in history. And Obama's point is correct. The gov't is not some foreign entity, it is us. Gov't doesn't spend hundreds of billions on social security and healthcare for our parents, unemployment of Medicaid for our out of luck friends because a tiny elite wants that.

Likewise dozens of Republicans didn't suddenly switch from opposing health care reform 'no matter what' to 'it's an ok bill but we want to fix a few things' because they are a tiny elite. They did so because they read public opinion with a more sensitive ear than you do.

Keep in mind who the elitist is here. You have tenure and free speech rights. Your statements about what you think the 'vast majority' of Americans want are totally free of consequences. You can toss off some poll you hear about on the radio coming into work because your job is not up for bids every few years. In other words, your market incentive for being able to say anything intelligent or true about public opinion is just about zero. Given what you believe about the power of market incentives, shouldn't that imply we should give your feelings about public opinion just slightly more than zero credibility?

* Also those who receive the most votes but not the majority due to their race being more than a two party race is also exempt.

Bill N writes:

We live in a world in which "bubbles" do happen. Government, at best, delegates a small group of to make decisions by which we must, by force of law, abide, Does this collapse of distributed decision into a collective decision make bubbles more or less likely? If Obama "got it", I'd feel less threatened. He seems to understand that elections have consequences, but fails to understand just what those consequences are.

Note that the financial collapse wasn't caused by the CRA. But CRA among other government factors led to a encouraging multitude of bad behaviors (e.g lowering down payments, degrading credit standards, looking the other way when the dodgy loans were bundled and sold). Banks and pseudo banks weren't forced to make bad decisions, but those that did were rewarded; they allowed to merge and make lots of money in the short term. Denying the obvious, blaming "lack of regulation" scares me to no end.

yee sian writes:

I think Obama's really trying to say - let's not confuse a checking of the government's powers in her constitution, with adopting an attitude that is automatically reactionary to any policy/measure adopted by the government.

Because if you ask - what is the rightful function of a political democracy? I think on top of it's ability to check the rise of a government which does not have political legitimacy, it is really about allowing those political leaders who truly genuinely have the ability and desire to govern the country (in their limited ways) to rise to acquire those legislative functions that allows them to do so.

On your example of what that means to Hitler's fascism - it is not the fact that Hitler managed to canvas support that is wrong, but the fact that Nazism was wrong.

And I think what you have done is to impose your view of the correct size of government as the moral equivalent of what a government should be - and based on that stand, automatically condemned the nobility of any gesture, even if they were meant out of goodwill. And here is where I think Obama demonstrates a far more historic/mature understanding of governance:

Moreover, democracy in a nation of more than 300 million people is inherently difficult. It’s always been noisy and messy, contentious, complicated. We’ve been fighting about the proper size and role of government since the day the Framers gathered in Philadelphia. We’ve battled over the meaning of individual freedom and equality since the Bill of Rights was drafted. As our economy has shifted emphasis from agriculture to industry, to information, to technology, we have argued and struggled at each and every juncture over the best way to ensure that all of our citizens have a shot at opportunity.

That your default position on the issue is to view his speech as politically motivated to canvas support for the Democrats, and am unwilling to even conceive of the possibility of its being otherwise - is precisely what Obama is trying to speak out against - not the fact that you are against him, but that you are unable to ever form a position that will not be antagonistic to any government.

- Ah, but (looking at your title) that may be precisely what you are trying to drive at: it is never possible for government to not be a menace. In which case, I want to change tack and ask of you, that decency which Obama accorded to people who may not share his political views - is it philosophically possible for you to conceive of the possibility of your stand as wrong, and to construct an ideal constitution based on the understanding that people who do want a big government (that is effectively led) can have the possibility of their having it achieved? - and to come back to the idea of a constitution that is rich and organic in its conception - and see it in the message Obama is really trying to put forth.

Svedn writes:

I don't know why you won't use the term fascist. The US is fascist by any reasonable definition. To be fascist, a nation does not have to match or exceed the worst historical example of fascism. Fascism is, in truth, the dominant global paradigm.

Yancey Ward writes:

I find myself in agreement with Boonton. You simply cannot excuse the choices we voters are allowed to make. We get the government we deserve, good and hard.

Keeping the state within it's bounds is a never-ending process. To believe otherwise, to believe that you construct a constitution and that is the end of the work, is to admit defeat before the game is even started. Power always corrupts those who wield it- always. Humans always want something for nothing, and politicians in democracies spend all their time promising this and trying haphazardly to deliver it. At some point soon, those who are actually in the position of bearing this burden are going to face a choice- keep on bended knee or take a more active approach to defy the decaying system. There is probably no other option.

zach writes:

Boonton writes:
"$1,000 if you can name one Congressperson who was not elected with a majority of the voters in his or her district (not counting those appointed to fill out terms of ones that vacated their seats)*"

The majority of the voters, being people of voting age eligible to vote, or people who actually went to the polls? Therein lies the rub. Typically about 2/3 of eligible people vote in a presidential election year, even less in an off-cycle year. Many people have given up going through the charade, knowing that a false choice foisted upon us by two parties is really no choice at all.

"Sir, would you like to die of pancreatic cancer or lung cancer." See, you have a choice, but the outcomes are essentially the same, so not really a choice at all.

jolt writes:

"Our laws are passed by a Congress that, rather than enjoying the support of the vast majority of Americans, is according to polls opposed by the vast majority of Americans."

This is such a tired argument. It is only true when people are asked about their view of Congress as a whole. When asked about the Senators and Representatives they themselves elected, folks area quite happy with their performance.

"I am willing to forego the use of the term "fascist" to describe our current government. The amount of physical intimidation that we face today is nothing compared to what people faced under Hitler."

First off, fascism was a creation of Benito Mussolini, not Adolf Hitler who was a National Socialist (Nazi). These two ideologies are not the same, especially not in their view of economics.

One can certainly argue that today's dominance of large corporations in US government is indeed fascism as this is one of its hallmarks, Mussolini himself said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power". To in anyway imply that this situation can be attributed to Obama and the democrats ("...he was calling on people to submit to his will and that of his party.") is disingenuous at best.

But the fact that you are trying to attribute one ideology to the wrong dictator shows that you are either just looking to elicit the same old, tired Hitler-Nazi emotions and/or that you simply do not know what you are talking about even at a cursory level.

mulp writes:

December 17, 2005, Arnold Kling wrote:

"My own position is based on (1). I think that the checks and balances in our system are meaningful, so that our government does not act like a Communist dictatorship."

I'm not sure what has changed in less than five years.

Certainly not the politics of government.

In the five years prior to five years ago, the Republican dominated Federal government rammed through legislation using such tactics as reconciliation and other procedural moves, including keeping a vote open long after the rules call for so arm twisting would change a vote to pass the Republican measure.

The debate for invading Iraq was rushed and scheduled to take place in the hot debate of an election campaign rather than given time for deliberate consideration of the costs of war and that war in particular. That war resulted in the involuntary draft of "stop loss."

As the war and other events led to President Bush taking actions that were very unpopular, he was praised for doing what was right, not what was popular.

Yet after all that, the checks and balances were meaningful.

Obama's critics are saying he is no different than Bush in holding onto power. Bush's defenders are saying Obama is no different than Bush in holding onto power.

So, what has changed the past five years other than electing the first black president, the first president born since 1960, the first Democratic president of the 21st century, the first president since 1950 to have Federal tax revenue fall below 15% of GDP.

And Obama has adopted the policies of Republicans on almost every issue with little modification. The health reform law is the Republican proposal of the early 90s, and the law Mitt Romney negotiated while governor of Mass when he had no reason to advance health care reform as a political issue; Romney's health insurance activism was based on economics, just as Obama's activism on the issue.

And I find Obama's "We, the people, hold in our hands the power to choose our leaders and change our laws, and shape our own destiny." in marked contrast to the "you are either with us or against us" language of the Bush administration and the Republican Party of a five years ago.

I find it odd that five years ago our government was fine with you, but now with no change in our government, only a change in personnel you find it scary. If you consider our government to be rule of powerful men, instead of rule of law, I can only conclude you favored the Republican authoritarian rule of five years ago.

Boonton writes:

The majority of the voters, being people of voting age eligible to vote, or people who actually went to the polls?

The people who actually went.

Many people have given up going through the charade, knowing that a false choice foisted upon us by two parties is really no choice at all.

Is there a single district without the ability to write in votes? In the Presidential elections there are usually a host of 3rd party candidates, including Libertarians, that voters can opt for if for no other reason than to send a message.....yet they don't.

I agree with this up to a point. But would you agree also with the following statement:

Corporations are not "us." Corporations are run by a relatively small handful of people with far too much power. Their exercise of vast powers is neither moral, contractual, nor effective. The power of the shareholders does not include the power to stop creditor bailouts or to stop redistributions to labor. The power to elect directors is a very weak power. Bylaws are passed by a board that, rather than enjoying the support of the vast majority of shareholders, is according to polls opposed by the vast majority.

Now explain how we can keep the central planners in charge of corporations from pillaging our country without a government of comparable power.

Otto Maddox writes:

If it could happen in Germany, it can happen here, or anywhere else for that matter.

Cisse Spragins writes:

@Michael Martin. Mega corporations could not exist without mega government - the banking industry being a prime example. More of the poison that created the problem is not the answer, but it is always government's favorite answer, since government has never accepted blame for the problems it creates.

Matt Flipago writes:

I find a lot of things on this comment section confusing and disingenuous.

First to Philo, a super majority were opposed to financial bailouts, but we got them anyways. Looks like even when a majority support something, congress barely cares, and obviously has alternate motives then to represent the people.

Second I find it extremely disingenuous to mention Republican hypocrisy. Almost everyone here knows the Republican politicians don't have ideological consistent beliefs.

Also to the comment of "This is such a tired argument. It is only true when people are asked about their view of Congress as a whole. When asked about the Senators and Representatives they themselves elected, folks area quite happy with their performance. "
If congress were a diverse group of people with extremely diverging views on things, where no majority view existed could a congressman actually represent a district well. But there are a lot of majority opinions held by congressman. There can't be many views held by the majority, and the constituents justifiably pleased with their congressman's performance. The reason for the disparity is because voters are not perfectly rational, and strangely view their congressman as better then all the rest(like 95% of professors believe they are above average in their department). The voters are stuck with terrible choices, and can't do anything about it, and many don't care, because it won't affect the outcomes, and requires far too much time to actually be informed.

Lastly, if we agree with the ludicrous conclusion that "we" are the government, then How can "we" own property that almost nobody can go on,how are there terrorist attacks on "us" but not the government, how are we not responsible for the atrocities our government has done, how are we the government, and yet there are adults you never have the right to vote, let alone the fact that nobodies vote has ever affected a federal election, how are we not responsible for killing innocent civilian in foreign countries? The idea that we are the government leads to conclusion that I have never meet anyone hold. People like the feeling that "we" are the government because it makes it seem like they can affect the government, but if you don't take any of the responsibilities and ethical implications from it, you can't logically hold that view.

Boonton writes:

Corporations are not "us." Corporations are run by a relatively small handful of people with far too much power. Their exercise of vast powers is neither moral, contractual, nor effective.

I would agree that corporations are 'us' but corporations are only 'us' in that 'us' are shareholders. But in a larger sense corporations are 'us'. They exist because 'us' choose to buy their products, own their shares, etc.

The idea that we are the government leads to conclusion that I have never meet anyone hold. People like the feeling that "we" are the government because it makes it seem like they can affect the government, but if you don't take any of the responsibilities and ethical implications from it, you can't logically hold that view.

This is a valid point, which can result if you take the 'we are the gov't' idea too far. But I think Obama's point was not to push the idea too far but counter the opposite concept from being pushed too far, namely the idea that the gov't is some foreign entity that mysteriously got here by some strange, unknown mechanisms and 'we' are totally innocent of any responsibility for its actions. That too is clearly false. As I pointed out to Arnold, there is silent majority out there waiting for a "throw Grandma off Medicare" candidate to rise up.

Boonton writes:

And most of the criticisms mounted here against Obama's statement apply almost equally to corporations. It is very rare that a single share casts the deciding vote. Most votes for the board of directors are not competitive races. Few major corporate decisions are even put up for a shareholder vote. The process for shareholders to initiate their own resolutions or challenge selections for the Board are difficult and onorous *unless* you happen to own a very large portion of the shares. If you take a corporation owned by numerous small shareholders (say no one shareholder has more than 0.5%), the procedures for actually impacting corporate government are a lot less inviting than the individual methods of shaping government itself.

Boonton writes:

Matt

First to Philo, a super majority were opposed to financial bailouts, but we got them anyways. Looks like even when a majority support something, congress barely cares, and obviously has alternate motives then to represent the people.

Says who? As I pointed out to Arnold, its very easy for certain people to spout off statements about what the majority of the public supposedly wants when their paychecks don't depend on it. If you believe in market incentives then clearly candidates for office are the only ones who, every few years, must have their contracts renewed by a relatively lethargic and poorly informed public. If there was a supermajority appalled at the bailouts, why wouldn't we see a groundswell of challengers making voting for the bailout a key issue?

The fact is statements like a majority are opposed to the bailout or health bill are based only on a single data point, a public opinion poll. Democratic politics, though, existed before modern polling techniques. The poll is only the beginning of a coversation between politician and public. To use the poll as direct proof of what the public wants is like telling your mechanic your car is running fine simply because there are no dashboard warning lights on and his attempt to tell you otherwise is just an attempt to rip you off.

First, polls not only measure opinion but knowledge. It's not enough to know what the public thinks when responding to a single sentence. Do they know what the proposed bill actually says? Do they know the circumstances? If you asked them something like "Leading experts have informed us that the financial system is near collapse and to allow it to do so would cause massive unemployment and suffering. A bank bailout bill has been proposed that will use $750B to buy up troubled assets, the Treasury Secretary says time is of the essence and action must happen in less than a week, what should we do!" Your supermajority opposed may suddenly disappear..

Which is probably why you're not seeing much anti-bailout activity among the political class. Politicians, being keen observers of public opinion, know that "he voted for the bailout" won't work because the person who voted for the bailout will bring to mind the sense of emergancy. But the politician may know "no more bailouts", "let's never let such an emergancy happen again" and "now that the crises is settled, let's address those who caused it" may all be messages that work with the "supermajority" who say they oppose bailouts.

Economic theory asserts that revealed preferences are much more real than simply stated ones. It's well known that a survey's value is very limited. If a survey says that people will pay 10% more for a new version of a product that has some improved feature, there is no gurantee that such a product will actually move off the shelves of stores.

Suppose a company did take such a survey and found their customers would pay 10% more for a new version of the product that had some new feature. The company introduces the new feature and raises their price 10% only to see sales fall 20%! Would you accept this as serious evidence that the competitive market system fails? If the survey is accurately reflecting people's true tastes then it must be a failure of the market. After all the people want the new feature for 10% more, their failure to buy it must be a failure in the market! People who actually work with these things, know better. The survey may indicate that people will actually reach in their wallet and spend 10% more. Or it might indicate that they consider 10% more a fair price for the improved product but not one they would necessarily indulge in. Or it might indicate that they wanted to appear like they are the type of people who are well off enough that they don't care about price, only quality. Or many more possible explanations. The survey is useful only to the degree you understand how useless it is!

Now for all the cries that Congress doesn't represent us, I see very little real evidence that it doesn't. During the Civil Rights conflicts, how many desegregationists did the deep south elect? During the pre-civil war era how many abolitionists got elected in, say, Georgia? How many rabidly anti-abortion pro-lifers get elected to represent Manhatten? Do gun control nuts often get elected to represent rural areas?

If you're going to argue that Congress as an average doesn't follow average opinion of the whole US, well you're probably right. But on average your Congressional representative does follow the average opinion of your district, which is what the system was designed to do.

Brian Clendinen writes:

Boonton “$1,000 if you can name one Congressperson who was not elected with a majority of the voters in his or her district (not counting those appointed to fill out terms of ones that vacated their seats)* Also those who receive the most votes but not the majority due to their race being more than a two party race is also exempt."

Erik Paulsen 3rd District – Minnesota (178,932 out of 369,104 votes cast for this office).

Michele Bachmann 6th District – Minnesota (187,062 out of 404,725 votes cast for this office)

Jean Schmidt 2nd District Ohio (148,671 out of 331,624 votes cast for this office)

All the other votes were write-ins or votes for independents in the above three cases. Send me your e-mail address to madcollock@yahoo.com so I can send you the address to mail and the official sources to validate the $1000 payout.

I know you did not mean that an independent is a party (write-in are independents)because then the only way you could loss is by someone showing a tie for congress. Mathematically that is the only possible outcome you could loss in with the above meaning. Also if that is what you met then your statement above had absolutely nothing to do with the article nor the rest of your argument.

There are actually quite a few more cases if you also include votes for Third Parties.

I found 15 members of congress which did not win a majority of which one seat is now empty (Eric J. J. Massa). and one was the New York 23d district special election. There are three senators elected in 08, 5 in 06 and one in 04 (one whose seat is now a governor appointment) who did not have a majority of the vote. Add in the other 4 senate appointments in 08. That is almost 5% of all federal legislative positions which the holder did not have a majority of the vote or was appointed (4.4% removing appointments).

We have a judicial tyranny where judges on a regular bases commit treason and at times high treason, yet the Senate does not remove them from office. When the sixth federal judges ever removed (due to Perjury and corruption) from office is now a sitting in congress and we have a legislative branch who has in defacto assigned authority to the courts without actually having to pass anything. How can you claim there is not an Elite mentality with a government who ignores the will of the people let alone the constitution. Granted we have more choice than almost any other nation, but that still does not mean the current government even cares about its citizens other than to get reelected.


“Is there a single district without the ability to write in votes? In the Presidential elections there are usually a host of 3rd party candidates, including Libertarians, that voters can opt for if for no other reason than to send a message.....yet they don't.”

As to your second statement, it is due to the structure of elections and how political parties insure they will not have competition except with each other in most states. Louisiana has recently changed and are the ones who have it right. One you need to have a majority for federal offices. Secondly, the elections are a open non-partisan primary.

If every single state did that or something like it for federal offices there would actually be viable third parties. We have been brainwashed in thinking that we should vote for the lesser of two evils because we want our vote to count. Open General elections (of say from the top five candidates from an open not-partisan primary) would solve this issue. The best statement I have read which is a large minority of the population opinion was this in 2006 and 2008. The Republicans did not deserve to be in control, but the Democrats deserved it even less. The Tea Party movement has a lot to due with this thought processes.

Until majority is required for all Federal offices and third parties can easily get on individual state ballots in all states. We will not see any changes.

Also get all states to adopt Iowa presidential electoral allocation process (only senate electoral got to the state wide majority, each Federal House District elector goes to whoever has the majority in that district) and we could actually see a more democratic functioning system in the U.S. That way large states like Texas California, and New York which presidential candidates ignore because they know their party will win, now are more important.

Boonton writes:

Brian

I know you did not mean that an independent is a party (write-in are independents)because then the only way you could loss is by someone showing a tie for congress. Mathematically that is the only possible outcome you could loss in with the above meaning. Also if that is what you met then your statement above had absolutely nothing to do with the article nor the rest of your argument.

Let me get lawyer on you, I said more than a two-party race. A race with two parties and an independent is 'more than a two party race'. Also 'party' has a double meaning, it could mean a political party or it could mean a party as in a 'member'. Either way, in a 3-way or more-way race the winner will not get 50%+ of the votes but the point still remains, there is no Congressman who holds office despite the will of the voters.

You'll forgive me if I reserve the right to resolve all linguistic question in a manner most favorable to my finances!

We have a judicial tyranny where judges on a regular bases commit treason and at times high treason,

I suspect treason is defined here as decisions you disagree with.

As to your second statement, it is due to the structure of elections and how political parties insure they will not have competition except with each other in most states.

Competition is more intense than it would appear on the surface, but my position on Presidential races is more simple than that. There are states where the Presidential winner was clear far in advance. For example, Obama swept NY with something like 60% and McCain swept Texas with a smaller majority but nonetheless one that was very clear before the vote. In both cases voters unhappy with the choices could have opted for 3rd party candidates to send a message. For example, progressives in NY could have opted for a socialist candidate to show that they wanted more left wing choices without having to fear such an act would result in a person winning they liked even less than Obama. Likewise Texans could have opted Libertarian candidate without fear that such a message could have ended up putting Obama in rather than McCain.

Other historical races are even more potent illustrations. In 1972 and 1984 Nixon and Reagan were known to be the winners well in advance. Voter's anywhere were perfectly free to use 3rd party candidates to indicate that they wanted to shift the spectrum of debate without having to worry about electing someone they wanted least. Yet no such pattern presents itself.

This shouldn't be surprising. The parties have a strong incentive to try to expand their tents by incorporating as many third parties as possible. While strict libertarians may find the GOP simply intolerable, enough of them are able to make common cause with the GOP.

There are other types of democratic systems which would probably produce more 3rd parties. For example, proportionate voting schemes where you get multiple votes that you can either give all to one person or split up among several candidates would likely result in more and smaller parties. But the thesis that the US is ruled by an elite at odds with the vaste majority simply doesn't hold water and, IMO, is little more than an attempt to dodge responsibility

Boonton writes:

The Republicans did not deserve to be in control, but the Democrats deserved it even less. The Tea Party movement has a lot to due with this thought processes.

Kind of odd that their favorite daughter is the VP nominee from the last Presidential race! Let me say this about the Tea Party:

1. They are not a majority and if they were forced to provide coherent policy positions (such as demanding drastic spending cuts but Medicare spending cuts are 'killing grandma') they would be even more of a minority.

2. I think they are more about striking a pose. They are like Democrats in the 1980's who would cry and cheer at speeches by Jesse Jackson or Ted Kennedy but in the end would not commit to them, would not nominate them. Republicans are just as good. Ron Paul is a hero until it comes time to actually nominate someone, at which point the 'safe choices' like McCain and Romney actually get votes. IMO the Republican Party does a B+ job of incorporating the Tea Party.

If every single state did that or something like it for federal offices there would actually be viable third parties. We have been brainwashed in thinking that we should vote for the lesser of two evils because we want our vote to count.

Except you do end up with a 'lesser of two evils'. I think you're describing a run off system where if the winner of the first race doesn't get 50%+, the top two people face off in a 2nd election. But voters who supported all the other candidates now must face a 'lesser of two evils' in this second election where the person they vote for is not their first choice. You carp about 'the system' limiting choice but in demanding a winner with the majority vote you accomplish this by.....tadah...a system that limits choice to force a winner with a majority vote!

I think the problem here is the paradign that 50%+1 = 100%. It doesn't. Holding 48% of the market is very powerful. Holding 2% is not. The system we have exagerates small wins into 'landslides'. For example, in 1984 many remember the map of the US with all but one state colored as a win for Reagan. But over 40% of the voters went for Mondale.

IMO voting is a bit like a market. Getting 35% in a 3-way race merits a win, but its not much of a strong mandate. If voters really don't like the guy, they will likely unite in a single person to challenge him in the next election. Unless he does a good job responding to public opinion, his future job prospects don't look good. Likewise winning 58% is a pretty potent win. But it doesn't mean the issue is settled. It's never settled. The 42% minority only has to convert 1/3 of the 58% voters to oust the guy in the next go around.

I'm not hung up on a candidate getting 50%+. For example, look at the 2000 race in Florida. Whichever way you felt about it, the fact is either Bush or Gore won it with a super razor thin margin. We can ditter for eternity about hanging chads but no argument can ever be made that either candidate really captured the voters in 2000.

John writes:

The commenters already hit every intelligent point to be made about this dribble.

I just want to point out that the outrageously stupid seems a lot more so when spoken in language usually reserved for rational argument, by someone who should know better. I can handle it from Glenn Beck but somehow in this forum it was a little hard to take.

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