“My budget is largely symbolic”

September 24, 2008

Okay, no one really said that, but I would probably vote for them if they did.

Plans set in stone | Democracy in America | Economist.com

Granted, any nominee’s budget programme is largely symbolic, more a statement of priorities. For good government, however, prioritisation must be a priority. Your correspondent would have a lot more confidence in a candidate prepared to admit that the money for large expenditures won’t turn up between the couch cushions.

It’s about the time in the year when I really get around to reading, The Cult of the Presidency, by Gene Healy. We are supposed to be electing a person to a constitutionally limited office, but no one is going to win by promising to faithfully fulfill his constitutional duties. Especially not by emphasizing that all spending bills will be originated in the House. I wish a candidate would express their limitations in straight talk. Oh wait, we tried that.

It all comes back to the ideal response coined by Scott Adams.

I fantasize about running for President, but in the same way I fantasize about being Batman. I wouldn’t want either job, but it’s fun to think about how I’d handle certain situations. One situation that pops up all the time is when a reporter asks a candidate to respond to his opponent’s campaign promises to do the impossible. My fantasy answer would be “My opponent thinks voters are stupid.”

The great thing about that answer is that it would generate world headlines. Second, it would resonate as being honest and accurate. You’d have to make sure you weren’t making unrealistic promises yourself, and that’s the hard part. But it would be a killer line.


Financial Background

September 23, 2008

5 Easy Pieces | Culture11

Why is our financial system on the brink of collapse? Believe it or not, I can tell you the whole story in a single page — as long as I’m allowed help from the easiest to understand stuff on the Internet.

Culture11 is a news site modeled after Slate, but with a conservative twist. It’s hit or miss, but some of their good stuff has been very good.

Don’t Forget the Fiscal Crisis

September 22, 2008

Radley Balko at FOXNews.com – U.S. Government Veers Away From Capitalism – Opinion (proof you can write for an organization and not completely agree with them)

Neither Barack Obama, nor John McCain, nor either party’s leadership in Congress has proposed a reasonable plan to deal with the government’s unfunded Social Security and Medicare liabilities. In fact, all have proposed expensive new government programs that can’t possibly be funded over the long term. All seem both oblivious to the federal government’s impending financial peril and intent on making it worse.

Perversely, all are then simultaneously demanding that they be given greater control over the private sector — because, they gallingly explain, corporations have shown that they can’t be left alone to behave in a manner that’s fiscally responsible.

May you live in interesting times certainly seems to apply to us today. It is important to remember that neither side speaks honestly about their case. The only person to blame, of course, is ourselves, because we don’t seem to require it of them. There’s probably something to be said that in systems with little feedback, performance degrades. Representative democracy, having more feedback than other systems seems to have the least bad performance.

McArdle and Presidential Candidates

September 12, 2008

Success is great, but it always has drawbacks. For Megan, it means that a large number of commenters completely misconstrue her intentions and words. My favorite sentence:

I do not think that America would be a better or nobler place if we were a leetle more like Sparta.

Some Unions are doing Well

September 12, 2008

George will reports on the challenges localities face with pensions: (HT JG again)

Human nature — the propensity to delay the unpleasant — rears its ugly head: When pension benefits come due, the people who promised them, thereby buying labor peace and winning elections, are long gone.

Authoritarian Capitalism

September 12, 2008

From an interesting article on the international challenges liberal democracies face (HT Jacob Grier):

Now, in China, we glimpse the prospect of a modernity which is both non-Western and illiberal. But is authoritarian capitalism a stable, durable model? That, it seems to me, is among the greatest questions of our time — which is still a post- 9/11 time, but also a post-8/8 time and, ecologically, a five-minutes-to-midnight time.

Zogby spoke at my college and mentioned an interesting study about student visas. When you allow a student from the Middle East to study in the US, he goes back with a much higher view of the West on a host of issues. In addition, his entire family and people who know him end up with a higher view. Of course, in the wake of 9/11, we cut back the number we were allowing, and I don’t know what it has done recently. It seems to me more liberal immigration policies would do a lot to spread out ideas.


September 11, 2008

Toby Harnden reports from the front line:

“There are old rednecks who would have thrown me out of the local restaurant two weeks ago if I’d said they’d ever vote for a woman

“Now Sarah Palin comes along and they’re like a bunch of school kids tripping over themselves to listen to her.”

Time and place and message. Republicans were depressed, and she came and offered hope and change and freshness. It turns out that’s a powerful message.