8 Jul 2010

Poll results -- public policy for who?

Hey! There's a new poll (mothers' choices) to the right --->
Government policy is driven by (choose 1+)
careful analysis 8 votes
current events 24 votes
inertia 23 votes
long term goals 5 votes
partisan bickering 28 votes
special interests 55 votes

I agree with these results, and I am also depressed by them. I am now reading The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy, in which Buchanan and Tullock lay out the best case for voting, logrolling, etc., and I am having a hard time reconciling their optimistic view with daily reality.

That leads me to wonder if:
  • Things are better than we see, or
  • They are as bad as what we see, but don't really matter, or
  • We are going to hell in a handbasket...
My answer changes from day to day, but I can surely say that results from Washington (or Sacramento) are better what comes from most places on this planet. Is that because we have a lead (that we are squandering), or because our "better" is only relative to their "worse," or because we are really just doing fine?

So it seems we face two questions:
  1. How well are we doing relative to how we could do?*
  2. How do we improve what we are doing, to approach a realistic higher level?
I am all for partisan fights that result in good policies that endure for an election cycle, but I do not favor continuous tinkering under the influence of lobbyists looking for a quick handout.

Please tell me your number one reform, to improve this process.

I have many, but I put neutral representative districts (no gerrymandering) at the top. My goal is that representatives appeal to the needs of the average, not the extreme, voter.

Bottom Line: We get the government we deserve. Change requires that we (1) know what's wrong and (2) address those failures.

* Churchill: "It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried."


  1. I am reading a surprisingly useful book, Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radical". The book is not a support of communism or of any ideology. It is a practical manual for how to effect change, independent of what the change might be.
    A very useful book.

  2. There's an argument that heavily gerrymandered districts are more representative. If I, as a representative, have a monolithic district of people who all think like I do, we can be sure their views are represented even though my constituents may not be a majority state-wide.

    The result may be that each person's views are in fact represented better than they would be if we drew neutrally.

    Deciding based on the average voter sounds pretty good to me, but then I'm awfully average. It seems to defeat the idea of a representative democracy, though.

    Consider the possibility of unintended consequences. Sure, gerrymandering and earmarks and logrolling seem creepy, but maybe there's a more complex order that we don't see.

  3. I have a hard time coming up with a number one reform. It would be nice if bills could only do one thing (no sticking in extra pork) but I don't know how to realistically limit that. It would be nice to simplify the tax code and disallow the IRS from using tax incentives to create public policy as well as preventing them from restricting free trade - perhaps by passing a law preventing politicians from restricting or favoring any groups, but that is so vague I doubt it would be feasible. Still thinking...this is hard.

  4. Force legislators to sign a statement swearing that they read the bill before voting on it.

  5. Voters need to be much better educated to analyze issues and need to learn to distrust well funded political advertising.


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