Arnold Kling  

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Brad DeLong writes,


America's best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible.

DeLong's dream of technocratic governance is some people's nightmare. I think the solution is what in the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced I call Virtual Federalism. That is, we allow people to choose their virtual state, regardless of where they live. My neighbor could choose sane technocratic governance. I could choose minimal government. My neighbor and I would need to have a common defense policy and a common foreign policy, just as in the original federalism. But for many policies, my neighbor and I could have different government. For example, my neighbor's government can try to make a Medicare Ponzi scheme last. My government would instead limit government support to vouchers for the very poor and the very sick.

On a more sobering note, I do not think that DeLong's rhetoric should be taken lightly. I think it gives you an idea of how heated things have gotten, on both sides. It is reminiscent of Stalin and the Kulaks or Hitler and the Jews. Virtual Federalism may be needed to avert that sort of outcome here.


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CATEGORIES: Political Economy



COMMENTS (36 to date)
J Storrs Hall writes:

Slightly less widely unread than before, just got it on Kindle. Cheers!

MikeDC writes:

I will just say that if you know your history it’s more than a little strange to see the “progressive left” jumping to the Fed’s defense against the evil Rick Perry.

I know it’s important to say all the right things when you’re in academia and when you want to engage with noted left-wing intellectuals, but really, there’s a huge elephant in the room here, and I don’t mean the GOP.

[url fixed for repeated pastes of http--please verify next time that you are entering a valid url.--Econlib Ed.]

fundamentalist writes:

The trend among the left of despising democracy is growing. It doesn't surprise me to hear Delong promote a dictatorship of the left.

Tom West writes:

I have to admit, I always find the desire for the elimination of the opposition party (on either side) by any thinking person be beyond belief.

Who on earth would wish de-facto single party status onto their favored side? Even in the most exceptional of circumstances, it's never lasted more than a single statesman's life and then you're party is a cesspit of corruption.

Does anyone truly think that a party can survive ethically intact without the occasional hosing out of the detritus that accompanies badly losing an election?

As a Canadian who leans towards the Liberal party, I have to say I was vastly relieved when the Conservatives finally found a their way to power. The Liberals will rise again, and any damage the Conservatives might do to my favored policies couldn't possibly match the catastrophe the Liberals were becoming if they continued what looked like eternal rule.

Tracy W writes:

I wonder how much of this partisanship is due to the deliberately divided nature of the US government. NZ had a much more winner-take-all system for all of my life, and even with MMP and coalition politics, one party is often totally out of power.

Having seen National and Labour make similar dumb decisions in situations where they don't need to compromise with the other party means that I can't believe that if only x party did not exist, policy would improve markedly.

Gary T writes:

"the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced"

No pdf online might have something to do with that.

Finch writes:

In your Virtual Federalism, I think you would get people arguing that their favored policies were necessarily national monopolies.

For example, advocates of the Medicare Ponzi scheme would say that it only makes sense if the healthy can't "exploit the system" and opt out by choosing a government that did not include it. Which is analogous to why you'd want one national foreign policy, and only a bit less sensible.

I'm not sure you would change the debate, just by changing the method of implementation.

"Hitler and the Jews"?
Really?
Noah writes:

Virtual federalism is a common idea in sci-fi. See Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress or Vinge's The Peace War. I doubt it would work though.

AC writes:

That's amazing that the Democrats only care about the well-being of the citizenry, and are immune from special interests.

M.R. Orlowski writes:

fundamentalist,

I hear you, but I must admit it is quite amusing to watch those who have previously praised the greatness of democracy to now call for some kind of dictatorship(maybe they'll call it a dictatorship of the people).

foosion writes:

DeLong is not advocating death, death camps or the like.

He repeatedly calls for a sane opposition party, not for a dictatorship.

His typical post on the subject lists an example of Republicans behaving very very badly, then says we'd be better off without them.

Interesting post the day after Perry calls the Fed treasonous if it tries to help the economy.

ChacoKevy writes:

I disagree, and do think you should take the statement lightly. When he criticizes conservatives, he does so in a manner that parrots the way conservatives criticize liberals. On his blog, he even uses the words "Fair" and "Balanced" in the sub-title. Do you need more of a hint about what he's doing?

If you disagree, then fine. However, I would expect you to equally criticize the conservative leadership and punditry that targets a certain demographic and refers to them as the "Real America". Until that message is also taken into urban centers, then I would say the right is guilty of the same.

Anyway, DeLong is still a neo-liberal Rubinite. Not the statist that is feared. And yes, I think we all agree that DeLong is terribly rude.

Dave MacLeod writes:

I think eliminating either party would be catastrophic. What we need is a third and maybe a fourth party(s). This would require coalitions and compromise and no party would have de facto veto on policy.

wws writes:

"Virtual Federalism may be needed to avert that sort of outcome here."

Stalin could never have taken out the Kulaks if they had been armed and waiting for him. Same goes for Hitler and the Jews.

We're forewarned this time.

Floccina writes:

IMO the republican party has become too much associated with racism, so I think that its elimination and a split in the Democrat party between the more free market people and the more socialist would be good. That would, I think, split the black vote more evenly and make more sense.

gm writes:

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

shecky writes:

I know increasing numbers of Republicans who feel exactly the same as DeLong. And I understand precisely why.

ThomasL writes:
Now the first principle... becomes plain enough. It is the proposal that somebody or something should criticise men with the same superiority with which men criticise madmen. It might exercise this right with great moderation; but I am not here talking about the exercise, but about the right. Its claim certainly is to bring all human life under the Lunacy Laws.

Chesterton wrote that specifically about eugenists, but I think it has application to these high- and heavy-handed proclamations in whatever strain they happen to appear. They all have the same first principle.

Philo writes:

Your reference to the past century's most notorious mass murderers is probably hysterical rather than prescient. (Let's hope so!)

shecky writes:

Does anyone here realize that desiring the demise of the Republican party is not the same as desiring the rise of a one party state?

Tom West writes:

Does anyone here realize that desiring the demise of the Republican party is not the same as desiring the rise of a one party state?

Given the institutional provisions that make it near impossible to create a new party out of whole cloth, I think we can be pretty confident that the demise of the Republican (or Democratic party for that matter) would bring about de-facto single-party rule for the foreseeable future.

Thus I find the desire for one's favored policies to be enacted over opposition to be significantly different from desiring the demise of the only effective opposition to those policies...

Foobarista writes:

What he's seeing is something I've always said to leftie friends: the more government does, the less democratic it has to be. The only way you can have a big state and a semi-functioning democracy is if there's a standing consensus among major political players that the state should be big, and "politics" is only about how much various groups get from the state. If that consensus is successfully challenged by small-government types, the existence of much of the state - and its employees - is thrown into question.

Can't have that. It wouldn't be "democratic".

Yancey Ward writes:

I often find myself having to remind myself that the people I encounter on political blogs are self-selected, and represent a very small cross-section of the population. If I go out on street, and ask who Brad DeLong or Arnold Kling are, I will get vacant stares from 99.5% of them. Political passions of the dangerous kind exhibited by DeLong are an extreme minority in the US, and those minorities are totalitarian at heart, make no mistake about that, but they will need a much, much larger cadre to actually be effective.

Frost writes:

Yancey, you're too optimistic.

Spend some time in the comments section of the NYT, Gawker, The Huff Post, Daily kos, or the politics section of reddit. Brad Delong is not unique in his feelings towards non-progressive America, and the problem isn't getting better with time.

Arnold correctly and courageously states the implications, but his solution is naive. Delong and his ilk will never leave Arnold and his alone, because Arnold is Brad's dinner.

Cheers,

Frost

Dave writes:

If the neighbors with different virtual health care policies can use the same hospitals, you'll still see overpriced health care, since the Medicare ponzi scheme will help push up the demand of scarce local doctors and hospitals. Unless everyone is off the policies that encourage less out of pocket spending, those who are off them won't fully benefit.

shecky writes:
Given the institutional provisions that make it near impossible to create a new party out of whole cloth, I think we can be pretty confident that the demise of the Republican (or Democratic party for that matter) would bring about de-facto single-party rule for the foreseeable future.

Yes, because if the Republican party somehow rolled up its tent and called it quits, there would be no alternative ever forming to take its place.

Oddly, I remember when Obama was elected, Kling turned Gloomy Gus and predicted a virtual single party state without even wanting the demise of the Republican party.

Thus I find the desire for one's favored policies to be enacted over opposition to be significantly different from desiring the demise of the only effective opposition to those policies...

The thing you drama queens haven't even bothered to do is read DeLong's post where Kling characteristically overstates DeLong's point in a fit of hand wringing. And to emphasize the drama, throw in Hitler and the Jews into the equation, too!

steve writes:

"America's best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible."

Required? I don't quite understand the past tense here. Is he saying the Republican party was already destroyed or that it is too late for sane technocratic governance because the Republicans weren't destroyed in time?


ChacoKevy writes:

Steve, the cited quote is a bit truncated. There is more at the beginning:

"You Know, I Arrived in Washington in 1993 to Work for Lloyd Bentsen's Treasury as Part of the Sane Technocratic Bipartisan Center...
And it took me only two months--two months!--to conclude that America's best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible".

Lord writes:

If we only had democracy. The legacy of the Federal system is to privilege the tyranny of a minority.

Bonfire of the Idiocies writes:

Virtual federalism is a great idea. Unfortunately, it might not work.... a concrete version of the scheme was tried in post-WWII Berlin which resulted in the sane technocratic side building a wall. The ultimate problem is sane technocratic government cannot function without a functioning economy to steal from.

Chris Koresko writes:

Floccina: IMO the republican party has become too much associated with racism, so I think that its elimination and a split in the Democrat party between the more free market people and the more socialist would be good. That would, I think, split the black vote more evenly and make more sense.

On reading this comment it's not clear whether it is intended as ironic humor or serious analysis. But I suspect the latter and will respond on that assumption. Apologies in advance if you were kidding.

You probably know the Republican party was founded to oppose the expansion of slavery to new U.S. states, with an eye to eventual abolition. Its first president was Abe Lincoln, who led the North in the Civil War and became known as the Great Emancipator. In the post-war Reconstruction period, Republicans were a major target of the KKK (along with Catholics and Blacks). Later Republicans included Martin Luther King, Jr., who famously made the moral case against the Democrats' policy of enforced racial segragation known as "Jim Crow". Republicans in Congress were prevented from pushing civil rights legislation through by LBJ, years before LBJ became President, switched positions, and signed a new version which passed Congress with strong Republican support. Since then Republicans have been the principal opponents of the progressive social policies that have done so much harm to blacks and other minorities.

You may not be following U.S. politics closely, so you might not have heard about the recent (couple of years ago) death of Robert Byrd, the longest-standing Democratic senator, who in his younger days founded his own chapter of the KKK. In his defense, former Democratic President Bill Clinton noted that he basically had to be involved with the KKK to win office as a Democrat in those days.

I'm not claiming that every Republican has been on the right side of every argument about race, but the suggestion that the Democrats have been better is not defensible.

Yancey Ward writes:

Frost,

I know those venues are full of venomous hate, but those people are not that numerous- it just seems that way when you compare it to the venue itself. 99.9% of the US population doesn't comment on blogs like that, and those that do are drawn there by the venomous blog hosts themselves. You may as well be alarmed at the comments on neo-Nazi websites, as to be alarmed at Democratic Underground or Free Republic. All blog comment sections reflect their hosts, with the occasional nutjob troll from the other side, and the occasional nutjob from the same side.

Tom West writes:

Brad Delong is not unique in his feelings towards non-progressive America, and the problem isn't getting better with time.

In fairness, I don't find there's much difference on the other side. I'm fairly certain a Brad Delong-level sentiment about the destruction of the Democratic party could be found with a little searching somewhere among more mainstream right-wing bloggers now...)

The left and right wing-nuts have always had plenty who felt that the other party should be dissolved and their hard-core supporters (traitors to the American people!) imprisoned or worse (Anne Coulter, anyone?), but it's a bit dismaying to see this creeping into the mainstream.

johnleemk writes:

Ditto Tom West.

Chris Koresko,

Without absolving the Democrats, it's a bit rich to argue the Republicans of today are the same as the Republicans of 50, 100, or 150 years ago, just as it would be to argue the same for the Democrats. The implication of your argument is that to preserve the Union and keep the African-Americans of the South free, the Democrats must be eliminated, since they supported peace with the Confederacy in 1864.

People change, institutions change. Institutionally, I would say one has to be deluded to argue the Democratic Party is more racist than the Republican Party. Byrd is an ex-KKK man, fine. How many Republican leaders refused to shoot down the racist memes about Obama's ostensible foreign nationality and/or Muslim religion? Which party has more leaders arguing that the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was a mistake? Which party's leaders fought attempts to sanction apartheid South Africa?

I would be the first to agree that in many of these cases, Democrats supported the wrong policies and Republicans supported the right policies. But both sides were not thinking in terms of rational policymaking -- they were thinking in terms of politics. The ethnic minorities of America are solidly Democratic, and it's because even though the Dems unintentionally screw them over, the Dems give them a voice, which is what democracy should do. The GOP is overwhelmingly white and middle-class. Its motives are not driven by compassion or sympathy for the plight of minorities.

James A Donald writes:

Democracy is internal peace. It means both sides have decided to live together and tolerate each other. When one side decides it is not going live with the other side, not going to tolerate it, there is nothing the other side can do. Democracy can only continue so long as no substantial minority wishes it to end.

War is easy, peace is hard. Peace requires both sides to continually make an effort to keep the peace. If the Democrats decide they do not want democracy, there can be no democracy. Republicans can win or lose, but if they win, their leader will be a Pinochet or a Sulla, not a Reagan. Or both sides might lose, and the country could wind up with rule by warlords and people's militias.

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