David R. Henderson  

The Stupid Party

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The old line among libertarians circa the late 1970s was that Democrats are the evil party and Republicans are the stupid party. I think both parties have covered both adjectives in recent years, what with wars, torture, drone killings based on little evidence, etc. Those are both evil and stupid.

But back to the label in the good old days. The Republicans, in the last 24 hours, have shown that they deserve the stupid label.

1. The budget deal. The deal in 2011 was one of Boehner's few accomplishments. There was serious restraint on discretionary spending. Now he has given that up, with a comment about cleaning out the barn: instead he's befouled the barn further.

2. The debate tonight. Leftist John Harwood as one of the questioners? Really? How does that help any of them?


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COMMENTS (8 to date)
Mike Hammock writes:

According to David Friedman, the stupid/evil party story comes from a Peter Brimelow article.

Here it is, but be warned that the article itself is pretty awful. His delivery of the stupid/evil party story is funnier than David's, though, I think.

Mike Hammock writes:

Actually, that's not quite right. Brimelow tells a good version of the story, but it's not clear where the story originated.

Here's a possibility that showed up in a Google search.

ThomasH writes:

And what was the very worst kind of Federal expenditure Republicans could find? The ONE they insisted be reduced in return for no default? Corporate tax breaks? Tax deductions rather than partial tax credits? Ethanol subsidies? Farm crop "insurance?" Socialized airport "security?" No, it was a transfer payment, SS disability payments.

Anonymous writes:

I would argue that this perspective is mistaken, that the reality is almost exactly the other way round. The stereotype of the left is that they are in favor of doing some kind-sounding thing but do not notice the enormous negative consequences of doing so - surely a stupid position. The stereotype of the right is that they are in favor of doing some mean-sounding thing for its indirect or long term benefits, but that those benefits turn out to not exist - surely an evil position.

Perhaps both descriptors do apply to both, though. Doing something that sounds nice but causes large net negatives could certainly be described as evil, in consequence if not in intention. And to the extent that our knowledge improves over time, conservatism in the literal sense could be described as stupid.

David R. Henderson writes:

@Mike Hammock,
That Peter Brimelow story is from the last 1990s. I remember that we talked this way in the late 1970s.

Thomas B writes:

I once heard an influential economist say he couldn't figure out whether it was harder to teach Republicans to care, or Democrats to think.

Surely a version of Republicans evil, Democrats stupid.

Mike Hammock writes:

David, if you read my second link, it looks like the anecdote in the Brimelow article dates back to at least the 1980s, and probably goes back earlier than that (possibly even partly to John Stuart Mill!).

I think it works best as a joke with a punchline that makes a point in that particular version used by Brimelow.

Hazel Meade writes:

The debate tonight. Leftist John Harwood as one of the questioners? Really? How does that help any of them?

Apparently, it makes it easy to portray themselves as victims of media bias.

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