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October 16, 2013

An Upbeat Assessment of the Shutdown

His piece is worth a read. His main takeaway is that the Tea Party has asserted itself, which is actually good for public policy.

But he has some criticisms:

In short, all in all, the Shutdown makes me hopeful for the future of the Tea Party, the Republican Party and America. It showed that the Tea Party has produced a significant number of elected officials with integrity and willing to go through political fire to enact their goals, and can push the GOP in the right direction.

Now, is that all?

No. It is also true that the Tea Party promotes some bad policies like premature austerity, sometimes (let’s admit it) has a “reality problem” and very often has a tactics/strategy problem. But, the GOP Establishment also promotes some disastrous policies, and along with adding to the supply of chaff, the Tea Party has brought the best wheat the GOP has had in a very long time.

I don't know about "premature austerity." Let me note that the one large-economy Western nation which has come out rather well in this crisis is Germany, which is running a small, almost now wiped out, budget deficit, and also has fairly low unemployment.

Contrast that to everyone else, who are running high deficits and have high unemployment.

Is Germany exceptional? Or is that German policy is exceptional, but other countries could expect the same results were they to implement the same policy?

One thing that galls me -- or anyone with Tea Party tendencies -- is this uncritical, unchallenged acceptance of Herd Convetional Wisdom simply because the other members of the Herd have decided it's easiest to just not think about things and default to the Conventional Wisdom.

My sneaking suspicion is that most people who champion the Herd Conventional Wisdom only do so because other members of the Herd have done so; that is, it has become a majority position for no better reason than a majority of people believe it's the majority position.

This, I think, gets at the heart of the Tea Party's deep skepticism towards the Establishment or the Conventional Wisdom it embraces: That its positions have largely been adopted for social reasons -- conformity, of course, the paramount social consideration -- and not for intellectual, philosophical, economic, or mathematical reasons.

It's not that the Tea Party doesn't like thinking or rejects "logic" or is "crazy" or all the other epithets applied to them. It's that they strongly suspect that the Conventional Wisdom has been adopted, and is being translated into governing philosophy, for not better reason than the fact that is is Conventional. And that few in the leadership class -- which really should do a lot more thinking about things if they want credit for thinking about things -- ever examine whether the basis for this Conventional Wisdom is firm or infirm.

I think when the party is having a fight about First Principles, it is better to actually start talking about First Principles than to keep papering over the obvious disagreement. Who knows, perhaps after a real discussion of First Principles, the party could refashion some kind of a new consensus.

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posted by Ace at 04:19 PM

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