Libertarian Capitulation

When historians want to mark the moment the hyper-libertarian economic philosophy died in America, they might take this morning’s appearance by Ayn Rand’s disciple, Alan Greenspan before the House Oversight Committee.

Mr. Greenspan said he had made a “mistake” in believing that banks in operating in their self-interest would be sufficient to protect their shareholders and the equity in their institutions. Mr. Greenspan said that he had found “a flaw in the model that I perceived is the critical functioning structure that defines how the world works.”

Mr. Greenspan, who headed the nation’s central bank for 18.5 years, said that he and others who believed lending institutions would do a good job of protecting their shareholders are in a “state of shocked disbelief.”

It is perhaps a marker of how far we have traveled in five weeks that when I proclaimed the end of the Uber-Libertarian on September 12, there was still a lot of push back from the community. For the leader of the libertarian philosophy to now proclaim he was wrong, seems to be the nail in that coffin. As Jacob Weisberg points out, libertarians have an excuse for every failing of the last few years, but they all ring false.

Utopians of the right, libertarians are just as convinced that their ideas have yet to be tried, and that they would work beautifully if we could only just have a do-over of human history. Like all true ideologues, they find a way to interpret mounting evidence of error as proof that they were right all along.

To which the rest of us can only respond, Haven’t you people done enough harm already? We have narrowly avoided a global depression and are mercifully pointed toward merely the worst recession in a long while. This is thanks to a global economic meltdown made possible by libertarian ideas.

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0 Responses to Libertarian Capitulation

  1. VeryBadMan says:

    Now we are all in a state of shocked disbelief.

  2. VeryBadMan says:

    Now we are all in a state of shocked disbelief.

  3. curiousjoel says:

    There is a reason that Adam Smith wrote about ethics before economics… and now we (most of us) understand.

  4. curiousjoel says:

    There is a reason that Adam Smith wrote about ethics before economics… and now we (most of us) understand.

  5. Sabeke says:

    Neither libertarianism or free-market capitalism account for greed. Historically, that has been the role of the Governement. However, special interests have made the government’s role less effective (by allowing greed to drive decisions).

    Is there another entity besides an effective Government that can provide oversight?

  6. Sabeke says:

    Neither libertarianism or free-market capitalism account for greed. Historically, that has been the role of the Governement. However, special interests have made the government’s role less effective (by allowing greed to drive decisions).

    Is there another entity besides an effective Government that can provide oversight?

  7. Tom Wilmot says:

    Sabeke – I’m sure Sarah Palin would suggest Jesus is the oversight entity.

  8. Tom Wilmot says:

    Sabeke – I’m sure Sarah Palin would suggest Jesus is the oversight entity.

  9. Tom Wilmot says:

    It’s amazing to me that people can actually get all the way to grown up voting age and not realize that a certain percentage of humanity will always operate under the banner of self-interest.

    In a way, it’s kind of cute – this unwaivering faith that folks will always do the right thing.

    On Halloween, I plan to just leave a GINORMOUS bowl of candy on the front porch with a note that says, “Please, just take ONE.”

    It should last all night, yah?

  10. Tom Wilmot says:

    It’s amazing to me that people can actually get all the way to grown up voting age and not realize that a certain percentage of humanity will always operate under the banner of self-interest.

    In a way, it’s kind of cute – this unwaivering faith that folks will always do the right thing.

    On Halloween, I plan to just leave a GINORMOUS bowl of candy on the front porch with a note that says, “Please, just take ONE.”

    It should last all night, yah?

  11. Rick Turner says:

    What does it mean to say that government accounts for greed? Are you saying that it is government that drives greed or that government is supposed to regulate greed?

  12. Rick Turner says:

    What does it mean to say that government accounts for greed? Are you saying that it is government that drives greed or that government is supposed to regulate greed?

  13. Jesse C says:

    Tom, if you include a picture of your face on the note, and position it so that it appears to be looking at the people taking candy from the bowl, it probably will last all night. Humans are pretty easy to manipulate and the illusion of being watched causes people to follow the rules.

  14. Jesse C says:

    Tom, if you include a picture of your face on the note, and position it so that it appears to be looking at the people taking candy from the bowl, it probably will last all night. Humans are pretty easy to manipulate and the illusion of being watched causes people to follow the rules.

  15. Pvt. Keepout says:

    What a stand-up guy, admitting he made a “mistake.” Must make the Missus proud.
    Hey, no problem Bubbles. You and your boyz are going to clean this mess up on your own dime, right? Not stick anyone for the bill, right? Right?

  16. Pvt. Keepout says:

    What a stand-up guy, admitting he made a “mistake.” Must make the Missus proud.
    Hey, no problem Bubbles. You and your boyz are going to clean this mess up on your own dime, right? Not stick anyone for the bill, right? Right?

  17. Tom Wilmot says:

    Jesse,

    So, in the morning, I’ll have an empty bowl along with a picture of myself with a mustache and “loser” drawn on it?

  18. Tom Wilmot says:

    Jesse,

    So, in the morning, I’ll have an empty bowl along with a picture of myself with a mustache and “loser” drawn on it?

  19. Another Jon says:

    All humanity functions in their own self-interest. This is the foundation morality and religion are built upon.

  20. Another Jon says:

    All humanity functions in their own self-interest. This is the foundation morality and religion are built upon.

  21. Jon Munger says:

    The notion that all humans are intrinsically selfish, even down to their cooperative instincts is at once very likely true and completely useless. To say “all human actions are selfish” has no more predictive power than saying “all events are dictated by God”. Instead, looking at human actions, we find that cooperation is far, far more common than direct competition.

  22. Jon Munger says:

    The notion that all humans are intrinsically selfish, even down to their cooperative instincts is at once very likely true and completely useless. To say “all human actions are selfish” has no more predictive power than saying “all events are dictated by God”. Instead, looking at human actions, we find that cooperation is far, far more common than direct competition.

  23. Sabeke says:

    @RT: Government (at least the US’s) is supposed to provide a counter-balance to the force of greed. One way is through regulation. Another is allowing Unions.

    The Political Compass says I’m a libertarian but this is one area where I think the grown-ups need to step in.

  24. Sabeke says:

    @RT: Government (at least the US’s) is supposed to provide a counter-balance to the force of greed. One way is through regulation. Another is allowing Unions.

    The Political Compass says I’m a libertarian but this is one area where I think the grown-ups need to step in.

  25. Nothing wrong with operating based on self-interest. Self-interest alone does not equal greed. And I don’t think individual greed alone is enough to account for our current…issues. No, that took a bunch individuals with similarly oriented self-interest hoarding and then exercising money, power, and influence to the exclusion of all others’ interests.

    All men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything…

  26. Nothing wrong with operating based on self-interest. Self-interest alone does not equal greed. And I don’t think individual greed alone is enough to account for our current…issues. No, that took a bunch individuals with similarly oriented self-interest hoarding and then exercising money, power, and influence to the exclusion of all others’ interests.

    All men wanna be rich, rich men wanna be king, and a king ain’t satisfied ’til he rules everything…

  27. Thomas Eicher says:

    It’s unfortunate that “libertarian” has come to mean just the vulgar libertarians of the right. Libertarianism has a strong leftist history and includes anarcho-syndicalists, libertarian socialists, guild socialists, mutualists, libertarian municipalists, social ecologists and geolibertarians among others.

    I count myself among the libertarian socialists with a political compass score that falls well into the lower left quadrant (-8.25, -8.82). Libertarian socialists oppose both capitalism and the state.

  28. Thomas Eicher says:

    It’s unfortunate that “libertarian” has come to mean just the vulgar libertarians of the right. Libertarianism has a strong leftist history and includes anarcho-syndicalists, libertarian socialists, guild socialists, mutualists, libertarian municipalists, social ecologists and geolibertarians among others.

    I count myself among the libertarian socialists with a political compass score that falls well into the lower left quadrant (-8.25, -8.82). Libertarian socialists oppose both capitalism and the state.

  29. Estudiante says:

    @Jon Munger: I am confused by your comparison.
    Using Tom’s Halloween candy example from above, a presumption of greed would predict that people will tend to take more than one piece of candy, right?
    What does an understanding that ‘all events are dictated by God’ predict in respect to Tom’s bowl of candy?

  30. Estudiante says:

    @Jon Munger: I am confused by your comparison.
    Using Tom’s Halloween candy example from above, a presumption of greed would predict that people will tend to take more than one piece of candy, right?
    What does an understanding that ‘all events are dictated by God’ predict in respect to Tom’s bowl of candy?

  31. Jon Munger says:

    Absolutely nothing, and that’s the point.
    Attempting to boil down economic, social, or any other factor to an easily remembered dictum does very little for our understanding, and thus our ability to alter situations and behaviors. It’s better to say “In some circumstances (as stated thus), most people will act selfishly, or altruistically, or wear pants on their head.” This lets us understand the situations that give rise to most behaviors, most of the time.

  32. Jon Munger says:

    Absolutely nothing, and that’s the point.
    Attempting to boil down economic, social, or any other factor to an easily remembered dictum does very little for our understanding, and thus our ability to alter situations and behaviors. It’s better to say “In some circumstances (as stated thus), most people will act selfishly, or altruistically, or wear pants on their head.” This lets us understand the situations that give rise to most behaviors, most of the time.

  33. Tom Wilmot says:

    Estudiante – That God wants us to be greedy!!

    Woo hoo!!! Problem solved! Greed and self-interest are ordained by the heavens!

    Take whatever strikes your fancy, kiddos – morality is obviously some lame human construct!

  34. Tom Wilmot says:

    Estudiante – That God wants us to be greedy!!

    Woo hoo!!! Problem solved! Greed and self-interest are ordained by the heavens!

    Take whatever strikes your fancy, kiddos – morality is obviously some lame human construct!

  35. Alex Bowles says:

    Here’s a great observation from Claire Berlinski at the LA Times, who makes the seemingly obvious point that free markets are not naturally emerging phenomena. Rather, they – like democracy itself – demand a range of sophisticated and well- coordinated institutions if they are to exists at all, let alone endure.

    Adam Smith himself observed [that] free markets rely on specific social, moral and political institutions. These institutions must be exceedingly robust if the free market is to deliver on all of the splendid promises made for it. In most of the world, they are not, and the chances of making them significantly more robust are slim.

    Contract law, transparent regulatory structures, transparent bookkeeping and systems for exchanging accurate economic information — such as a free press — are essential if a free market is to work. Very few countries have any of these, much less all of them.

    She goes on to say

    Institutions that support free markets were more than weak enough in the United States and other developed nations to cause complete, if temporary, free-market failure.

    One obstacle towers above all the others when it comes to the free market: flat-out corruption. In the developing world, and to some degree in the developed world, corruption is plain to see and receives too little attention. Corruption frequently leads to a disrespect for private-property rights, a judiciary that doesn’t properly enforce contracts, dubious banking practices and a serious lack of regulatory oversight. All will result in economic failure. The blame for this will be placed on the free market, particularly in popular imagination. But this analysis will lead to precisely the wrong kind of corrective action.

    I’ve made the point before that I view all this from the perspective of somebody who has seen third-word kleptocracies far more closely than most Americans by way of my family’s history in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe. The cronyism, the fascination with torture, the domestic spying, the lust for a secret police force, the blanket ideology, the ‘theory of the unitary executive’ (read ‘dictator’) – these are all the hallmarks of the most repulsive regimes known to man, as well as the signature policies of the Bush Administration.

    So while I appreciate the notion that this historic moment can be viewed as a pivotal point in a long running ‘battle of ideas’, I simply can’t support people who subscribe to one end of the spectrum or the other without accounting for the much more down to earth reality that lies in between.

    Even ideas that fail still have a certain nobility. But what we’re dealing with massive corruption, which is always low and shabby. Ideology has as much to do with millions of ruined 401(k)this as Marx had to do with the 20 million killed by Stalin. That is to say, everything in theory, but in reality, not much at all. Marx, and even Lenin were simply fig leaves in service of brutal totalitarian power, which is both a cause and an effect of corruption.

    If you can say that the size of a crash indicates the scale of the corruption that preceded it, I think it’s fair to say that the Bush Administration has been the most corrupt in United States history. We elected a man with third world view of ‘leadership’ to run a first world nation, and have our own bananafication to show for it.

    For me, the change we need isn’t about swings from left to right. It’s about moving from the darkness below to the light above. My hope is that we start to worry less about ideology, which has provided cover for all sorts of nefarious agendas, and, instead, start worrying about corruption as such. Until we start naming it directly – and punishing it accordingly – we’ll continue to sink.

  36. Alex Bowles says:

    Here’s a great observation from Claire Berlinski at the LA Times, who makes the seemingly obvious point that free markets are not naturally emerging phenomena. Rather, they – like democracy itself – demand a range of sophisticated and well- coordinated institutions if they are to exists at all, let alone endure.

    Adam Smith himself observed [that] free markets rely on specific social, moral and political institutions. These institutions must be exceedingly robust if the free market is to deliver on all of the splendid promises made for it. In most of the world, they are not, and the chances of making them significantly more robust are slim.

    Contract law, transparent regulatory structures, transparent bookkeeping and systems for exchanging accurate economic information — such as a free press — are essential if a free market is to work. Very few countries have any of these, much less all of them.

    She goes on to say

    Institutions that support free markets were more than weak enough in the United States and other developed nations to cause complete, if temporary, free-market failure.

    One obstacle towers above all the others when it comes to the free market: flat-out corruption. In the developing world, and to some degree in the developed world, corruption is plain to see and receives too little attention. Corruption frequently leads to a disrespect for private-property rights, a judiciary that doesn’t properly enforce contracts, dubious banking practices and a serious lack of regulatory oversight. All will result in economic failure. The blame for this will be placed on the free market, particularly in popular imagination. But this analysis will lead to precisely the wrong kind of corrective action.

    I’ve made the point before that I view all this from the perspective of somebody who has seen third-word kleptocracies far more closely than most Americans by way of my family’s history in Rhodesia and Zimbabwe. The cronyism, the fascination with torture, the domestic spying, the lust for a secret police force, the blanket ideology, the ‘theory of the unitary executive’ (read ‘dictator’) – these are all the hallmarks of the most repulsive regimes known to man, as well as the signature policies of the Bush Administration.

    So while I appreciate the notion that this historic moment can be viewed as a pivotal point in a long running ‘battle of ideas’, I simply can’t support people who subscribe to one end of the spectrum or the other without accounting for the much more down to earth reality that lies in between.

    Even ideas that fail still have a certain nobility. But what we’re dealing with massive corruption, which is always low and shabby. Ideology has as much to do with millions of ruined 401(k)this as Marx had to do with the 20 million killed by Stalin. That is to say, everything in theory, but in reality, not much at all. Marx, and even Lenin were simply fig leaves in service of brutal totalitarian power, which is both a cause and an effect of corruption.

    If you can say that the size of a crash indicates the scale of the corruption that preceded it, I think it’s fair to say that the Bush Administration has been the most corrupt in United States history. We elected a man with third world view of ‘leadership’ to run a first world nation, and have our own bananafication to show for it.

    For me, the change we need isn’t about swings from left to right. It’s about moving from the darkness below to the light above. My hope is that we start to worry less about ideology, which has provided cover for all sorts of nefarious agendas, and, instead, start worrying about corruption as such. Until we start naming it directly – and punishing it accordingly – we’ll continue to sink.

  37. JT says:

    Alex Bowles – Well said.

  38. JT says:

    Alex Bowles – Well said.

  39. Down Under says:

    Hear, hear Alex.

    It is indeed about time the light was shone into the grubby darkness and exposed for what it is.

    Also would like to say as an Aussie following this blog I not only enjoy Jon’s posts but also the intelligent, humorous, thought provoking and non-inflammatory replies by the readers.

  40. Down Under says:

    Hear, hear Alex.

    It is indeed about time the light was shone into the grubby darkness and exposed for what it is.

    Also would like to say as an Aussie following this blog I not only enjoy Jon’s posts but also the intelligent, humorous, thought provoking and non-inflammatory replies by the readers.

  41. Dan says:

    I watched more of this gnome’s comments on PBS. He said, in effect, that although there was a “flaw” in his thinking, nevertheless, nobody could have accurately predicted how this whole thing would turn out.

    That’s B.S., Alan.

    I knew exactly how the whole Iraq thing would turn out from the day the monkey started saying, “Saddam, you’d better let us attack you…or else.”

    I knew exactly how the whole “No Child Left Behind” thing would turn out, too. Lots of blather, few results, and no funding. A lot of bureaucratic lip-service that nobody believes in.

    And if I’d been told that the SEC had just decided that the bond rating companies could start rating complex derivative bonds using any criteria they thought appropriate, I would have said, “Well then the clock is ticking until the bomb goes off.”

    Similarly, when a Russian peasant throws his youngest child off the wagon to a pursuing pack of wolves, I have a pretty good idea of what will happen next.

    Any moron would, Alan.

    This is the genius? This is The Oracle? Go home, gnome. You are now thoroughly discredited and nobody wants to play with you any longer. Go to your cavernous mansion and complain to your servants that you have been unfairly treated by history. But go.

  42. Dan says:

    I watched more of this gnome’s comments on PBS. He said, in effect, that although there was a “flaw” in his thinking, nevertheless, nobody could have accurately predicted how this whole thing would turn out.

    That’s B.S., Alan.

    I knew exactly how the whole Iraq thing would turn out from the day the monkey started saying, “Saddam, you’d better let us attack you…or else.”

    I knew exactly how the whole “No Child Left Behind” thing would turn out, too. Lots of blather, few results, and no funding. A lot of bureaucratic lip-service that nobody believes in.

    And if I’d been told that the SEC had just decided that the bond rating companies could start rating complex derivative bonds using any criteria they thought appropriate, I would have said, “Well then the clock is ticking until the bomb goes off.”

    Similarly, when a Russian peasant throws his youngest child off the wagon to a pursuing pack of wolves, I have a pretty good idea of what will happen next.

    Any moron would, Alan.

    This is the genius? This is The Oracle? Go home, gnome. You are now thoroughly discredited and nobody wants to play with you any longer. Go to your cavernous mansion and complain to your servants that you have been unfairly treated by history. But go.

  43. Another Jon says:

    Jon Munger, you seemed to be responding to me on this issue of humanity’s acting in its own best interest, so I am going to respond against my own better judgment because you seem to be confused about my meaning. Which is really quite simple and is at the crux of the matter with the Utopian ideals of Libertarianism.

    Firstly, acknowledging the truthfulness of the statement and the calling it useless at the same time is one of the larger symptoms Alex Bowles is talking about in his hatred of corruption. The corruption he is speaking of is one of Truth, where the Truth is always maleable, instead of an absolute. Calling something the truth and useless, in the same breath, is exactly what we need to avoid. You have to accept reality. In order to alter behaviors, you cannot avoid the truth.

    And the truth is, everything that exists on this planet would rather kill than be killed…from microbes, to fleas, to rats. The cooperation that happens, only happens because the individual sees the benefit of acting within a larger network of like-mided individuals working towards the same goals. If every individual were self-sufficient, then cooperation would cease to exist. There is the problem with Libertarianism. Cooperation is a systemic understanding of a social order. If a member of a pride of lions could kill on its own it would, and the pride would cease to exist. What happens in our society is that we have a tendency to forget that we are part of a larger functioning system, and that sometimes our individual actions that benefit ourselves in the short term can affect the networked system adversely in the long term, therefore putting our own long term success in jeopardy as well. Some call it greed. I call it stupidity.

    Anyways…I prefer to leave predictions to the meteorologists and the altering of behaviors to the fucking Socialists!

    …heh

    And Alex, I am with you brother, but I am afraid yours is a pipe dream as well. The American people no longer have the power to hold their politicians accountable for corruption. The only way for it to happen is for Democrats to hold Republicans responsible and vice versa…but unfortunately they are cut from the same cloth, and do not have a cannibalistic bone in their body.

  44. Another Jon says:

    Jon Munger, you seemed to be responding to me on this issue of humanity’s acting in its own best interest, so I am going to respond against my own better judgment because you seem to be confused about my meaning. Which is really quite simple and is at the crux of the matter with the Utopian ideals of Libertarianism.

    Firstly, acknowledging the truthfulness of the statement and the calling it useless at the same time is one of the larger symptoms Alex Bowles is talking about in his hatred of corruption. The corruption he is speaking of is one of Truth, where the Truth is always maleable, instead of an absolute. Calling something the truth and useless, in the same breath, is exactly what we need to avoid. You have to accept reality. In order to alter behaviors, you cannot avoid the truth.

    And the truth is, everything that exists on this planet would rather kill than be killed…from microbes, to fleas, to rats. The cooperation that happens, only happens because the individual sees the benefit of acting within a larger network of like-mided individuals working towards the same goals. If every individual were self-sufficient, then cooperation would cease to exist. There is the problem with Libertarianism. Cooperation is a systemic understanding of a social order. If a member of a pride of lions could kill on its own it would, and the pride would cease to exist. What happens in our society is that we have a tendency to forget that we are part of a larger functioning system, and that sometimes our individual actions that benefit ourselves in the short term can affect the networked system adversely in the long term, therefore putting our own long term success in jeopardy as well. Some call it greed. I call it stupidity.

    Anyways…I prefer to leave predictions to the meteorologists and the altering of behaviors to the fucking Socialists!

    …heh

    And Alex, I am with you brother, but I am afraid yours is a pipe dream as well. The American people no longer have the power to hold their politicians accountable for corruption. The only way for it to happen is for Democrats to hold Republicans responsible and vice versa…but unfortunately they are cut from the same cloth, and do not have a cannibalistic bone in their body.

  45. Another Jon says:

    Jon Munger, you seemed to be responding to me on this issue of humanity’s acting in its own best interest, so I am going to respond against my own better judgment because you seem to be confused about my meaning. Which is really quite simple and is at the crux of the matter with the Utopian ideals of Libertarianism.

    Firstly, acknowledging the truthfulness of the statement and the calling it useless at the same time is one of the larger symptoms Alex Bowles is talking about in his hatred of corruption. The corruption he is speaking of is one of Truth, where the Truth is always maleable, instead of an absolute. Calling something the truth and useless, in the same breath, is exactly what we need to avoid. You have to accept reality. In order to alter behaviors, you cannot avoid the truth.

    And the truth is, everything that exists on this planet would rather kill than be killed…from microbes, to fleas, to rats. The cooperation that happens, only happens because the individual sees the benefit of acting within a larger network of like-mided individuals working towards the same goals. If every individual were self-sufficient, then cooperation would cease to exist. There is the problem with Libertarianism. Cooperation is a systemic understanding of a social order. If a member of a pride of lions could kill on its own it would, and the pride would cease to exist. What happens in our society is that we have a tendency to forget that we are part of a larger functioning system, and that sometimes our individual actions that benefit ourselves in the short term can affect the networked system adversely in the long term, therefore putting our own long term success in jeopardy as well. Some call it greed. I call it stupidity.

    Anyways…I prefer to leave predictions to the meteorologists and the altering of behaviors to the fucking Socialists!

    …heh

    And Alex, I am with you brother, but I am afraid yours is a pipe dream as well. The American people no longer have the power to hold their politicians accountable for corruption. The only way for it to happen is for Democrats to hold Republicans responsible and vice versa…but unfortunately they are cut from the same cloth, and do not have a cannibalistic bone in their body.

  46. Alex Bowles says:

    AJ – that’s exactly what worries me. The dismal results from the 2006 election demonstrated how little influence voters really have.

    However, I also see this problem as having very specific, technical roots in the redistricting system, whereby elected officials have been able to choose the people they will represent, resulting in the famous ‘safe’ seats, which account for 94% of all seats in Congress.

    These seats aren’t safe for the people who actually sit in them, of course, but they are safely held by one of the two major parties, meaning that competition comes only from within each party, and typically from individuals who are progressively more radical than whatever incumbent they’re challenging.

    Over the course of several decades, this process lands us where we are now – saddled with a bunch of unaccountable idiots dedicated to partisan warfare, and little else. It’s no wonder that people like Cheney can run riot. There’s no opposition worth a damn. And so we get the last eight years.

    And yes, AJ, you put your finger on it. Reality is very hard and unforgiving stuff. There are only so many feet in a mile, only so many hours in a day. You can spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to maximize the benefits that any situation presents, but to do so, you must first acknowledge the situation, and account for it accurately.

  47. Alex Bowles says:

    AJ – that’s exactly what worries me. The dismal results from the 2006 election demonstrated how little influence voters really have.

    However, I also see this problem as having very specific, technical roots in the redistricting system, whereby elected officials have been able to choose the people they will represent, resulting in the famous ‘safe’ seats, which account for 94% of all seats in Congress.

    These seats aren’t safe for the people who actually sit in them, of course, but they are safely held by one of the two major parties, meaning that competition comes only from within each party, and typically from individuals who are progressively more radical than whatever incumbent they’re challenging.

    Over the course of several decades, this process lands us where we are now – saddled with a bunch of unaccountable idiots dedicated to partisan warfare, and little else. It’s no wonder that people like Cheney can run riot. There’s no opposition worth a damn. And so we get the last eight years.

    And yes, AJ, you put your finger on it. Reality is very hard and unforgiving stuff. There are only so many feet in a mile, only so many hours in a day. You can spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to maximize the benefits that any situation presents, but to do so, you must first acknowledge the situation, and account for it accurately.

  48. Alex Bowles says:

    AJ – that’s exactly what worries me. The dismal results from the 2006 election demonstrated how little influence voters really have.

    However, I also see this problem as having very specific, technical roots in the redistricting system, whereby elected officials have been able to choose the people they will represent, resulting in the famous ‘safe’ seats, which account for 94% of all seats in Congress.

    These seats aren’t safe for the people who actually sit in them, of course, but they are safely held by one of the two major parties, meaning that competition comes only from within each party, and typically from individuals who are progressively more radical than whatever incumbent they’re challenging.

    Over the course of several decades, this process lands us where we are now – saddled with a bunch of unaccountable idiots dedicated to partisan warfare, and little else. It’s no wonder that people like Cheney can run riot. There’s no opposition worth a damn. And so we get the last eight years.

    And yes, AJ, you put your finger on it. Reality is very hard and unforgiving stuff. There are only so many feet in a mile, only so many hours in a day. You can spend a lot of time and effort figuring out how to maximize the benefits that any situation presents, but to do so, you must first acknowledge the situation, and account for it accurately.

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