TRENDING

Thursday, September 29th, 2011 | Uncategorized

First we had Tom Friedman waxing enthusiastic about Communist China.  Next we had North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue “joking” that we ought to “delay” congressional elections in order to get the people’s business done.  Now we can add Peter Orszag, the former director of the Office of Management and Budget, to that list of people who think that maybe this whole “democracy” thing has gone too far:

In an 1814 letter to John Taylor, John Adams wrote that “there never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.” That may read today like an overstatement, but it is certainly true that our democracy finds itself facing a deep challenge: During my recent stint in the Obama administration as director of the Office of Management and Budget, it was clear to me that the country’s political polarization was growing worse—harming Washington’s ability to do the basic, necessary work of governing. If you need confirmation of this, look no further than the recent debt-limit debacle, which clearly showed that we are becoming two nations governed by a single Congress—and that paralyzing gridlock is the result.

So what to do? To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.

I know that such ideas carry risks. And I have arrived at these proposals reluctantly: They come more from frustration than from inspiration. But we need to confront the fact that a polarized, gridlocked government is doing real harm to our country. And we have to find some way around it.

Facing this problem is crucially important because our current legislative gridlock is making it increasingly difficult for lawmakers to tackle the issues that are central to our country’s future—issues like climate change, the hard slog of recovering from a financial slump, and our long-term fiscal gap. It is clear to everyone that a failure to act will lead to undesirable outcomes in these areas. But polarization means that little action is possible. This is why I believe that we need to jettison the Civics 101 fairy tale about pure representative democracy and instead begin to build a new set of rules and institutions that would make legislative inertia less detrimental to our nation’s long-term health.

As the debt-limit experience vividly illustrated, by polarizing ourselves, we are making our country more ungovernable—and no one has come up with a practical proposal to deal with the consequences. I wish it were not necessary to devise processes to circumvent legislative gridlock, but polarization isn’t going away. John Adams may have been exaggerating when he pessimistically noted that democracies tend to commit suicide, yet, as we are seeing, certain aspects of representative government can end up posing serious problems. And so, we might be a healthier democracy if we were a slightly less democratic one.

Good luck with that, Pete.  Try to reinstitute “government by elites who are way smarter than you so keep your stupid mouths shut” and I guarantee that you will see another American Revolution.  And this one will shake the whole world to its foundations.

28 Comments to TRENDING

Michael D
September 29, 2011

Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time. Winston Churchill, 1947.

Gregg the obscure
September 29, 2011

If government’s scope were limited even a little bit, say roll back to the already-bloated Theodore Roosevelt administration, it would be considerably easier to operate, even among contemporary partisan divides. The problem is monumental governmental overreach, not “gridlock”.

Ed the Roman
September 29, 2011

And it has not entered Mr. Orszag’s darkest dream that we might solve this impasse by reducing the scope of the federal government; that the reason we cannot reach agreement is that too much is demanded to be agreed upon, because the goverment at present has too many things on which it must decide something.

Clay
September 29, 2011

Wasn’t “Dictatorship to Avoid Collapse” the policy that ultimately nixed the Roman Republic?

Also, the only reason he is promoting this is because of his name. Overlord Orszag has a nice ring to it.

Flambeaux
September 29, 2011

Clay, yes it was.
Once you start talking about having to save a republic, it’s time to turn out the lights.

CarolynP
September 29, 2011

I wonder if the result of such an attempt really would be a revolution. There seem to be so very many people who have become addicted to the narcotics of the nanny state – I fear too many would just give in to “their betters”.

Kelso
September 29, 2011

This is not supposed to be a democracy, it is supposed to be a constitutional republic; the sooner we start reminding all and sundry of that fact, the sooner we will achieve the same.

Even beloved RWR (I miss you Ronnie, God’s blessing upon you) used to get this wrong by nattering on in his speeches about democracy. That infernal college professor Woodrow Wilson was the first president to push the “democracy” agenda – before him, presidents spoke of “the republic”.

And while we’re correcting things: you can’t “pre-heat” an oven to 350 degrees. You can only “heat” it. When you buy “pre-sliced cheese” you’re buying “sliced cheese”. Work with me, folks!

Bill (not IB)
September 29, 2011

Kelso,

You missed the grandaddy of them all:

The Hot Water Heater.

Martial Artist
September 29, 2011

@Gregg the Obscure,

You are, at minimum, one President too late if you think T.R. was a good choice. He was a progressive. By about the end of the Wilson administration progressives had begun to call themselves liberals. Now, most liberals are actually progressives. They are typified in part by the likes of Orszag. They think (for anny given problem) that, if we just get all the experts in a room and give them all the data (facts and figures), the experts can figure out the one best solution.

This ignores the fact that their approach embodies, at minimum, two fallacies:

[1] Not everyone affected is facing the same prolem (or set of problems) in any given scenario. In the vast majority of instance what works for you will not work for me and neither approace that works for the two of us will work for our esteemed host. There is almost never “one best solution” unless that solution is to allow each of us to work out our particular situation on our own (or in company with those who face closely similar circumstances).

[2] Given the variability of solutions and the changes in circumstances that will occur between starting to collect the data, and the time the data will have been collected, collated and analyzed, many of our circumstances will have changed, but in a multitude of directions and independently of each other. By the time it gets to the experts in an understandable form, the data will be “past its sell-by date!”

The above two factors are principal reasons why a truly free market—one characterized by a government that restricts its influence on the economy to pure protection of (a) private property, (b) free association, and (c) free exchange—no exceptions, will always provide more prosperity and freedom than any form of socialism (i.e., planned economy).

The foregoing two points constitute the core of what is termed by many as “the Progressive fallacy.”

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

Ed the Roman
September 29, 2011

If you knew the feed water temperature for naval boilers, Bill (not IB), you might not think that was redundant.

FW Ken
September 29, 2011

Well, we all know who made the trains run on time, and we should all know by now that some Americans supported him, at least until WWII.

The will to dominate and control is a prominent feature of our fallen humanity, against the which Constitution establishes a federal republic. The different levels of government, and the different branches of government are designed for gridlock, and the price we pay are erratic train schedules (and worse).

If you haven’t read or seen The Lord of the Rings lately, do so before the next election, and pray that our choices are not between Sauron and Saruman.

Michael D
September 29, 2011

Kelso:

A pre-heated oven is one that is hot when you put the food in (vs one where you put the food in a cold oven and heat them together).

Pre-sliced cheese is sliced before you buy it (vs sliced cheese that may be sliced just before you serve it, or maybe sliced by the end-consumer).

The hot-water heater heats up water that will come out of the hot water taps (vs the boiler that heats water to go through the radiator).

You may not like the conventions, but they are not meaningless.

How did we get on this topic?

Dave
September 29, 2011

Well… Mohammar Quadaffi’s looking for work… Perhaps we can hire him!

His credentials as a top-of-the-line, gold plated, fruitcake are impeccable and as for viciousness… well, I guess there are better examples… Hussein for one, but we killed him… Idi Amin for another, but he croaked too.

Still, if this country’s eager to get away from our (admittedly inefficient) democracy, there are lots of experienced despots out there who would love to take the job!

Seriously though… Someone PLEASE send these people a copy of the U.S. Constitution! I believe the bit about election intervals is in there somewhere… So’s the bit about how one goes about amending the document!

Gregg the obscure
September 29, 2011

Martial Artist – I’d love to go back to a federal government more like that of James K. Polk, but I doubt even 10,000 in the US would support undoing the mistakes of the Taft and subsequent administrations, let alone the mistakes of about six intervening decades.

As I recall, about a century ago Chesterton summed it up “The business of the progressives is to make as many mistakes as possible and the business of the conservatives is to prevent the remedying of any past mistakes”.

Smurf Breath
September 29, 2011

which clearly showed that we are becoming two nations governed by a single Congress – and that paralyzing gridlock is the result.

What a stupid statement. The nation is more or less in agreement. The reason Congress and the President are in “paralyzing gridlock” is because of the Senate and Presidential terms that have not yet expired.

I never thought I’d hear American politicians talk this way. Truly disturbing. There is no trace of the ethic of “I disagree with the majority, but even those decisions it makes are preferable to tyranny”.

The next generation of idiot zombies has been activated and is now lurching forward in order to eat our brains… break out the chainsaws and machetes.

Maybe Santayana was too optimistic. These idiots haven’t forgotten the past: they are attempting to try the same failed philosophy and think they will get different results this time.

The Pilgrim
September 29, 2011

“First we had Tom Friedman waxing enthusiastic about Communist China.”

The president of Coca Cola has weighed in as well; says the business climate in China is friendlier to business than in the USA.

FW Ken
September 29, 2011

Of course it is: in China, you don’t have to buy new politicians every 2 to 4 years!

Sinner
September 29, 2011

the which Constitution establishes a federal republic

Right. Civics 101. A republic not a democracy

The ideas of egalitarianism, democracy, and social security come directly from the Paris Commune – not from the American Revolution!

that list of people who think that maybe this whole “democracy” thing has gone too far:

Starting of course with the founding fathers. The US is a federal republic not a democracy – it was never founded as a democracy, never designed as a democracy, never called itself a democracy or a “people’s republic” or anything of the sort.

Return to the original, unamended constitution! Use those original laws handed down by the drafters of the Constitution and the Founders of the States to govern each state and the Republic.

I wonder if the result of such an attempt really would be a revolution

There 1920s-60s truly saw a revolution which hid and almost destroyed the genius of the founders in the governing arrangements for the US. Taking the US back to their vision is the truest loyalty to the constitution one can imagine!

JM
September 29, 2011

Arrived at his proposals reluctantly? Does a Bolshevik need much encouragement to embrace Bolshevism? Orszag is just following his instincts.

LaVallette
September 30, 2011

“To solve the serious problems facing our country, we need to minimize the harm from legislative inertia by relying more on automatic policies and depoliticized commissions for certain policy decisions. In other words, radical as it sounds, we need to counter the gridlock of our political institutions by making them a bit less democratic.”

And who will these commissions be appointed by, accountable to, and have set their parameters?

This is just another way of saying: We know better than you what is good for you. It is the foundation of every dictatorial/fascist ideology be it Red, Brown, Black, Green and even the emerging Pink. It may also be under the guise of “guided democracy” which is the foundation of every one party states or those with a permanently dominant one that are found in a majority of developing and predominantly Muslim state with or without sharia law.

Allen Lewis
September 30, 2011

Yeah! Let’s make the trains run on time again! Oh wait! People don’t ride on trains (much) anymore.

Gee, it must suck a lot to have to deal with inconvenient facts!

Smurf Breath
September 30, 2011

Right. Civics 101. A republic not a democracy

Exactly! Peter Orszag is an ignoramus as well as demagogue.

The ideas of egalitarianism, democracy, and social security come directly from the Paris Commune – not from the American Revolution!

Correctamundo again. The idea of individual liberty comes from the American Revolution!

We can’t equivocate about “egalitarianism”. We are all equal before the law, as specified in the book of James, but we are not all equal in the sense of being identical.

Sinner, if you truly think Peter is not a bozo but is making a valid point, please elaborate, without equivocation with respect to words like “egalitarianism”. Maybe he and you have a valid point. But the devil’s in the details.

Martial Artist
September 30, 2011

@Gregg the obscure,

James K. Polk, aye. Count me in as long as we get to keep the modern amenities (H&C running water, indoor flushing privies, etc.).

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

BillB
September 30, 2011

Sinner,

I would not do away with the original 10 ammendments from the Constitution. Ammendments 16, 17, 18 and 21 can go away though.

BillB

Sinner
October 2, 2011

What? You’d keep the 14th?

the 19th? and especially the 24th?

surely the only important amendment in the first 10 is the 2nd – which is a common law right anyway – and in spite of being in the constitution is regularly breached by many states and cities.

the 18th has already gone…

of course, one could return to the constitution of 1861

[...] the image of God, who can be entrusted with liberty.Already, we are seeing our elites beginning to talk this way.  And with our nation on a now eternal war footing and our civil right essentially held [...]

[...] Excerpt from: TRENDING | Midwest Conservative Journal [...]

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