Patterico's Pontifications


The Way to Fix the System: We Need to Outbid the Special Interests

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:17 pm

I am thinking out loud here, and hoping that you will think with me, so we can crowdsource the issue of saving the country.

The problem is pretty clear, don’t you think? Politicians don’t vote in the public’s interest. They vote in their own interest. They want to be re-elected, and the way you do that is to get money. The way you get money is to vote in ways that please the people willing to give you money.

Take something as simple as farm subsidies. Any economist worth his salt will tell you that the free market is the best way to allocate resources and decide how much food to grow and of what type. If you give a farmer a guaranteed amount of money for any particular crop, he will grow as much of it as possible. As he floods the market with more and more of the crop, the price will go down, meaning the difference between what the market demands and what the government promises is bigger — and the more money he makes. So, just as the market is telling him that society needs less of the crop, he is incentivized to grow still more. Then the government will turn around and “fix” that problem by . . . paying him not to grow the crop.

No economist thinks this is a good idea. (Well, maybe Paul Krugman. But no good economist thinks it’s a good idea.) So why do politicians vote for farm subsidies? Because agribusiness pays them to. It’s that simple.

The problem is called “public choice theory” and you can read more about it here, but the essence of the issue is that politicians are human beings, just like everyone else. They may have certain talents, ambitions, and other personality facets that set them apart, but they still tend to respond to incentives the same way other humans do.

We all sit around and decry the way politicians act, but we act as if the solution is to put better politicians in office. It’s not. The system itself is rigged, so that people who truly want to act in the public interest rarely (not never, but very rarely) get into office in the first place. And once they get there, they have to make compromises.

The reflexive view of the left is that we need to “take money out of politics.” Clear-eyed supporters of civil liberties, however, recognize that there is no such thing as taking money out of politics unless you are willing to repeal the First Amendment. Are you willing to tell people they can’t speak in favor of their preferred politician or policy — or that you are going to put restrictions on how effectively they can do so? If so, you are stomping on the First Amendment. If not, then there will always be “money in politics.”

It seems to me, then, that lovers of liberty can do three things, which are not necessarily mutually exclusive:

1) Carve out an area of liberty for themselves, to make themselves less reliant on the government.

2) Preach the word of liberty and the free market loudly and often.

3) Outbid the special interests.

Only #3 is going to have any effect on the government. If the politicians are going to be bought off by special interests, we have to make liberty the biggest and most lucrative special interest of all.

Yes, it seems contradictory to some degree: curbing the growth of government by feeding money to the politicians. But I think it’s the only way to go.

Towards this end, I plan to start giving more money to organizations that fight for liberty: for smaller government and for the free market. I envision an organization that, eventually, can say to a politician (not directly, because that would be bribery!! but rather in the same “legal” way that all other lobbyists communicate): if you vote for farm subsidies, you get nothing from us. If you vote against them, we fund you — and we can pay you more than the farmers will.

I see two questions: 1) can lovers of freedom collect enough money to outbid the special interests, and 2) what organizations existing today best convey this message? What are your favorites? The Heritage Foundation? Someone else? Tell me in the comments what you think.

Obama on the Importance of Elections, Then and Now

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 11:37 am

Chris Cilizza, October 27, 2013: President Obama to Republicans: I won. Deal with it.

A visibly frustrated President Obama delivered a blunt message to Republicans with whom he had feuded over the government shutdown and the debt ceiling over the past month on Tuesday: Elections matter. I won; you lost. Deal with it.

That’s a paraphrase — obviously. Here’s what Obama actually said:

“You don’t like a particular policy or a particular president? Then argue for your position. Go out there and win an election. Push to change it. But don’t break it. Don’t break what our predecessors spent over two centuries building. That’s not being faithful to what this country’s about.”

“Go out there and win an election.” That’s about as direct as you will ever hear a politician be about how he feels about his opposition and how they are conducting themselves. (It’s not the first time Obama has used the “I won” construct. Remember the health-care summit in early 2010 when Obama told Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): “The election is over.”)

Obama’s argument comes down to this: He believes that the 2012 election — in which he was reelected easily and Democrats surprisingly picked up Senate seats and won a handful of House seats — was a clear signal that the American electorate prefers his vision for government to the one offered by Republicans. He views that mandate as a broad one — encompassing fiscal matters, health care, immigration and pretty much everything else.

Chris Cilizza, November 5, 2014: Republicans just won the election. President Obama doesn’t much care.

President Obama had a clear message for congressional Republicans in the wake of the GOP’s sweeping victories in the Senate and House on Tuesday: Big whoop.

“There’s no doubt that Republicans had a good night,” Obama said in his opening remarks, the rhetorical equivalent of a slow clap for Republicans. He wouldn’t go any further — even when pressed to put a single word to the defeat as he did when he called the 2010 election a “shellacking.” He emphasized the number of people — “two thirds” — who didn’t vote Tuesday. Despite saying repeatedly that his policies were on the ballot Tuesday, Obama insisted Wednesday that the message of the election wasn’t a rejection of those policies but rather a sign that the American public wanted politicians to work together to get things done.

Fortunately, the GOP didn’t win this election for the purpose of impressing Barack Obama. The GOP won this election for the purpose of thwarting Barack Obama. Obama can slow clap his way straight to irrelevance. It would be nice, however, if toadies like Cilizza were to notice the direct conflict between Obama’s attitude a year ago about the importance of elections, and his attitude today.

Eh, that’s OK. That’s what we’re here for.

Dana has more, including Obama’s reaction from this morning’s Face the Nation appearance.

UPDATE: A friend writes to remind us of the condescending “Dear 48” campaign. Remember that? Who’s up for a “Dear 44, with love from 53” campaign to rub their noses (ever so smarmily) in the Senate numbers?

President’s Midterm Loss Message Received: Washington Is Broken, Not My Policies. Just Let Me Sell My Mousetraps!

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:16 am

[guest post by Dana]

President Obama on midterm losses this morning on Face the Nation:

“Whenever, as the head of the party, it doesn’t do well, I’ve got to take responsibility for it… The message that I took from this election, and we’ve seen this in a number of elections, successive elections, is people want to see this city work. And they feel as if it’s not working.”

“They see Washington gridlocked and they’re frustrated. And they know one person in Washington and that’s the president of the United States. So I’ve got to make this city work better for them.”

Further, he does not believe his policies are the problem and that he just needs to re-brand and come up with a different sales pitch to the American people:

“It’s not enough just to build a better mousetrap. People don’t automatically come beating to your door. We’ve got to sell it.”


I would add that because Bob Schieffer is a lovely and polite gentleman who seems to have no desire to be seen as confrontational, a number of obvious opportunities to challenge the president were discreetly overlooked.


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