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June 11, 2012

The Fourth Revolution?

Brit Hume and @comradearthur point to this long think-piece on the long view of American politics. The "revolution" it speaks of is really more of a realignment, not a violent overthrow of government.

The general thrust is that American politics tend to be frozen in suspended animation until a crisis finally spurs some long-delayed decisions, then very big things are decided in a relatively brief span of time. And then the system remains in that form, with only small tweaks to it through the decades, until the next crisis.

Can the American system of government, accustomed to punting every single problem until it threatens to unravel the union, deal with the crisis before it takes place? Doubtful, the writer thinks.

But isnít it possible for Congress and the President to step in now to formulate a strategy to deal with these problems before they reach a crisis point? Various proposals have been set forth: the Bowles-Simpson plan, for example, and other plans to reduce the budget deficit over a ten-year period. To their credit, Republicans in Congress have stepped forward with a plan to reform Medicare and Medicaid and to re-write the tax code so that it encourages economic growth. Thus far, the Democrats have been silent. In any case, such proposals are unlikely to be adopted. For one thing, the problems are too large to be dealt with in any preemptive fashion. The prospect of cutting the federal budget by more than a third is hard to contemplate for politicians who have grown up in an environment of affluence and abundant resources. In addition, it is unrealistic to look to our political process to solve a problem that it has been instrumental in creating.

Rent-seeking -- chiefly practiced by Democratic Client Groups, always seeking some form of rent for any endeavor; for example, if you want to build a coal plant, that produces energy, you're forced to pony up money to subsidize solar panel operations, which don't -- slowly but inevitably destroy a nation's productive capacity:

The late economist Mancur Olson has argued that economies tend to grow more slowly as rent-seeking coalitions become pervasive and ubiquitous, since they divert resources from wealth-creating to wealth-consuming uses. This is one reason, he argues, why the United States grew so rapidly in the nineteenth century, and why West Germany and Japan grew so rapidly in the two or three decades after World War II. At such times, these economies were open to investment and entrepreneurship, and, as a consequence, they enjoyed historically high rates of growth. With the passage of time, all of these systems were gradually encumbered by coalitions seeking benefits through the state. Political paralysis and slow growth, Olson argues, are by-products of political systems captured by rent-seeking coalitions. These groups, operating collectively, can block any overall effort to cut spending or to address the problems of deficits and debt.

Interesting piece. Bookmark it for later.


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posted by Ace at 01:34 PM

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