The Three Corners of Government

When I have a little while to set up my thoughts in a conversation with someone on the topic of government I like to spend some time on the concept of “government” itself. What I believe government as we commonly understand it should be doing is founded in a clarification of what that entity is and, more importantly, what it is not. When I started thinking about this in an organized way some years ago it didn’t take long to realize that “government”, that process that drives the purposeful narrowing of our personal options, comes in three major forms.

The first of these forms is individual self-government. We all develop a set of values, starting in childhood, that guides our use of free time. When you see people at play, at church, involved in civic service, and interacting with family and friends you are witness to this purposeful narrowing of possibilities. Our personal image of this form of self government is drawn from family life, from community values, from churches, and from the cues left us by the larger society. These are sometimes frankly conflicting. Over a lifetime we choose which of these values, if we accept any at all, will guide our use of free time and how we will treat each other.

The second form of government is commercial service. For the benefit of the larger community and society we purposefully sacrifice a portion of our freedom, both of time and of choice, so that the needs of the community might be met. People are fed, clothed, housed, and provided transportation. Services are rendered and goods are shipped and sold. This process is done in a way that provides for the replenishment of those resources necessary to continue the provision of the services and goods people need, what we call “profit”. This process is heavily, even critically, dependent on individual self-government to run smoothly. Where that fails to constrain what people would do to satisfy personal greed and hedonism commercial service becomes grossly inefficient.

Hence it is we are finally delivered to official government. Official government rises from the need society has to protect itself primarily from people unrestrained by individual self-government. Now think carefully on this point, because the first instinct of many is to point to the organizational functions of government. The fact of the matter is, though, that, were we all sufficiently self governed and open to our own foibles and weaknesses as well as the strengths of others society could naturally fall into an order. "Anarchy" would carry positive connotations. We would have no need to choose some set of leaders, or permit them to be imposed on us, for the organizing of functions people in commercial service are usually better suited to guiding anyway.

Official government is inherently inefficient. In fact it encourages those who would insulate themselves from responsibility to the public they serve. This is because it relies on the individual self-government of officials to enforce honesty as they look after our resources. On top of that taxes, the source of those resources we give government, are divorced from the services they make possible. This means the provision of an unneeded service or the redundant and inefficient provision of a needed service can be continued without regard to the opportunity doing so costs society- because ending the waste would cause those providing the service hardship. Government officials feel closer to people efficiency compromises than they feel to those who must pay for inefficiency. Thus it is there are were until recently full-time employees operating automatic elevators in the nation's capitol.

In recent years many of us have begun to feel instinctively that government is actively working to erode the self-government that diminishes the necessity of the inefficient and often insensitive beast official government can become. The truth is that official government competes with individual self-government, and is weakened when we govern ourselves and insist that the government get out of our way. In its competition with us government has weakened the family structures of the nation's poor. It has attacked expressions of religious symbolism. It has rewarded and encouraged the failure of self-government. It has attacked the foundations of markets, fomented instability in the legal environment, and trumpeted the resulting failures of commercial service as a means of increasing its own power.

The people who want official government to do more and ever more must divorce themselves from at least one reality. They must believe the people in government are inherently better people than those in the rest of society. Nothing in the way official government really works encourages such a thing, though. In the grand scheme of things government has more to gain from our failure than it gains by our success.

Late addition- in adding a hyperlink to this article to conform to WB rules I found out the U.S. Capitol still has full-time employees operating the automatic elevators.

Posted by Lee Emmerich Jamison at February 9, 2010 9:53 PM
Comments
Comment #295378

Lee

Liberals (now often calling themselves progressives) do think that the people they put in government are better than the people. Their only fear is that the people will be misled by clever arguments by people like you and me.

It is funny to see how fast they can change. They went from triumphalism last year to a bunker mentality now that the people have rejected many of their leftier propositions.

You have seen it here. Despite the overwhelming power Democrats have held for three plus years in congress and for more than a year in the presidency, they still blame Republicans for their own ineptitude.

You are right about government being run by people who are in general no worse but also no better than other people.

Posted by: Christine at February 9, 2010 10:24 PM
Comment #295379

Lee,
Great article! And why I do agree with your idea that some Americans must divorce themselves from the reality that Goverment can do everything; nevertheless, I would expand that idea and tell other Americans that they must divorce themselve from the idea that Big Business can provide them with everything.

P.S. Self-Government and the Freedom of Freewill might be a little bit different from the Lefy and Right; however, as 9/11 showed Something is bigger than the God Almighty Dollar.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at February 9, 2010 10:27 PM
Comment #295381

Lee, I have to take exception to one of your premises, which you state as follows:

When I started thinking about this in an organized way some years ago it didn’t take long to realize that “government”, that process that drives the purposeful narrowing of our personal options, comes in three major forms.

Government does not necessarily nor universally narrow personal options. The Interstate Hwy system for example gives Americans the option to travel fast for long distances with usually less than awesome scenery, or slower with far grander vistas and places of interest to stop at using alternate routes.

The Democrats Health Care proposal would give Americans who lose health insurance coverage or can’t get it, an additional choice.

Tax payers who hate paying American taxes and hate the American government and talk of secession as an option like Mr. Palin or Gov. Perry of Texas or the Tea Partyers applauding the very word secession, always have the option to find a better government to live under in some other country. America tries to keep many people out, but, unless you are in the justice system punitively, no American is prevented from leaving. Another choice our government preserves for Americans that is not always found in other nations.

There are myriad ways in which the government provides choices and opportunities that would otherwise NOT exist in the absence of government. In the absence of government, each person would have to defend themselves in enemies foreign and domestic. Government provides the choice of becoming a soldier or paying to support the soldiers who defend the Americans instead of each American having to defend them self. Same is true of fire departments, FEMA, CDC, and police of the many differing policing agencies. The list of such government choices to do for oneself, or do without were there no government in place, is very, very long, indeed.

How innovative and productive would Americans be if they had to build their own homes, grow their own food, and provide education to themselves to their children? The government liberates its citizens to pursue other choices and opportunities that would not exist if each American in an anarchy had to take care of the lower tiers of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs on their own.

You wrote: “Official government is inherently inefficient.” And our American government deliberately and consciously designed to be even more so by the founding fathers who feared rule by the ignorant, uneducated, and mob collectives motivated by passions instead of reason.

But then you follow with this: “This is because it relies on the individual self-government of officials to enforce honesty as they look after our resources.”

I see this as a false statement. Our universal suffrage depends directly upon the informed state of the electorate and their willingness to hold their representatives responsible for government actions with their vote. Our government as a Republic, before the Amendments 17, 19, 24, and 26, what you wrote was true enough. Government officials were free to self-govern their actions in elected office. After near universal suffrage, however, the voter became the regulator of design over elected officials behavior, whether or not they exercised that power to hold the elected accountable for their actions and results of government, or not.

The reality is, our Constitutional government morphed from predominantly a Republic with only U.S. House of Representatives elected popularly, to much more democratic form of government Constitutionally with the ratification of the amendments itemized above.

This is one of the primary differences between the Democratic and Republican parties. The Republican Party after their namesake still clings to the notion of a Republic and self-governing elected officials as opposed to the Democratic Party which clings to the new responsibility of the Constitutional changes mandated by the people that they, not elected officials, shall be answered to for the actions of their representatives.

Regretfully, in reality, both parties corrupt the concept of democracy, resting as it does on Adam Smith’s definition of “enlightened self-interest” as voters guide to voting for, or against, reelecting their representatives as the results of government during their tenure warrant. They corrupt it by becoming the monopolists over the information which voters have ready access to at their literacy level, through the monopolization of the media message via enormous campaign funds subsidizing the blanketing of media coverage through campaign advertising, joined and buttressed by special interest purchasing of the media message at election time.

Real democracy capable of objective and informed choice, depends enormously on the quality and level of education of the majority of voters. The lower that quality, the more persuasive control elected officials and special interests have over the voters information base and criteria used in the ballot box to decide how a voter votes, and vice versa.

It is no accident that American K-12 educational quality has been dropping for the last several decades. Most School Boards are partisanly elected. The Parties know the value of the lesser educated voter. They are more responsive to manipulation, and easier to persuade through visceral advertising and appeals to self-interest and selfishness, as opposed to “enlightened self-interest”, reasoned objective arguments, and evidence; the requirements for responsible, accountable, and effective democracy and democratic elections.

For these reasons, I believe your conclusion: “The truth is that official government competes with individual self-government, and is weakened when we govern ourselves and insist that the government get out of our way.” is entirely mistaken.

Official government continues to provide vast necessary services which the private sector and individuals either cannot, or will not provide, of their own accord, but, which are nonetheless necessary to insure domestic tranquility, prosperity, and liberty for all. We could all be our own policeman, but, that is defacto the state of anarchy, absent the need even for rule of law, consensus, or cooperation.

The fact that our government is not responsive to the common sense of the majority of Americans is not a result of any flaw in the concept of government or even with the size of government. Majority American common sense demands fiscal responsibility, war only of necessity, health care reform (63% now say Democrats should not let this issue go unresolved), and an end to the partisan grid-lock and obstruction of solutions.

The fact that our government is not complying with those demands rests upon the lack of consensus between both parties in Congress to put the people’s common sense ahead of their first priority, which is the struggle for power on election day and all that that entails including massive fund raising from wealthy special interests, catering to special interest lobbyists, and shaping the information base for public consumption during the election season which is now virtually non-stop and continuous.

Your article attempts a conservative ideological explanation from why our government is not functioning well, but, the reality is, the TWO political parties and their leadership’s insistence upon power for the Party being the first and foremost priority, is the source of our government’s failing to meet the majority of Amercican’s approval.

Our Founding Fathers never contemplated political parties as we know them today, and their Constitution made no provisions for them.

I believe it is safe to say that if the majority of our Founding Fathers were witness to the destructive consequences of political parties today, they would recommend many severe changes. Some of the ones I believe the majority of them would consider would be greater constraints applied to political parties in terms of fund raising and who they may accept donations from and even limits on amounts, political party’s control of the media by the highest bidders, amendments to turn back the Supreme Court’s ruling on money as speech and corporations as personhood, as well as legislating severe constraints on organized lobbies, and abandoning constraints upon the rise of third parties and their ability to participate in the public forum and electoral arena.

Obviously, not everyone will agree with what I believe their consensus for changes would be for specifically, but, clearly, our founding fathers never contemplated partisan grid lock to the point of endangering this nation’s viability and unity.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 9, 2010 11:41 PM
Comment #295382

If one studies anthropology, one finds that man functions well in anarchy up to about 150 people in a primitive society.

Beyond that, there needs to be organization.

What fascinates me is the conjecture that recalls a seventies pop psychology book. I’m OK, You’re Not.

In transactional analysis, some people rather than assuming they are on par with others, find themselves superior and talk down to others in an authoritative manner. Rather than finding a happy medium in which we can all benefit, they find themselves restricted by morons.

Elitism has always existed, but when it is born in ignorance, it doesn’t become about sharing facts and findings, it becomes about internal enlightenment and personal achievement.

It becomes about Narcissism when it goes to manipulating those who are less able to finesse language, and raising a rabble to create opportunity.

Our founding fathers used such manipulation to create change. What made them substantially different was what they did with that opportunity. They did things that stabilized and expanded a nation, even when it went against what they personally believed, or even the Constitution laid out. That’s what made them remarkable.

We’ve watched what the Republican Party did with it’s opportunity, and would be wise to remember that history, and our founding fathers.

Posted by: gergle at February 9, 2010 11:41 PM
Comment #295383

Christine said: “They went from triumphalism last year to a bunker mentality now that the people have rejected many of their leftier propositions.”

Pure partisan propaganda in total denial of reality. A 63 percent majority of Americans, notably Democratic and Independent voters, want Congress to “Keep Trying” to pass a comprehensive health care reform plan, according to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll.

That leaves the minority Republicans and conservatives at 37%, obstructing the will of the majority of the people and the need of the nation’s economic future, in this regard.

Your depiction of Democrats quivering and hunkering down before the machinations of the obstructionist GOP in Congress lock and goosestepping to vote AGAINST their own proposals, amendments, and legislative agenda items for NO OTHER REASON than Democrats approved them, completely spins what is actually happening as Democrats are now finally growing a spine and taking the gloves off their dainty bi-partisan knuckles. And who can with objectivity, can blame them.

Dozens and dozens of Congressional Republicans who lambasted the Stimulus bill and voted AGAINST it, are now doing photo ops and bragging about the good and great things the Stimulus money is doing and going to do in their home districts. Of course, they are lying to their public by calling the money something other than what it is, Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds (Democrat’s stimulus bill.) See tonight’s Rachel Maddow show for quotes and photos. The list was enormous.

It was Republicans who called for a deficit and debt commission. As soon as Obama endorsed the idea, 7 Republicans who co-sponsored the bill, wouldn’t vote for it, anymore. Boehner outlined on TV some time ago FOUR requirements for the HC reform bill for Republicans. Democrats incorporated ALL FOUR provisions in the Senate version, and Senate Republicans voted against it to a person.

Republicans don’t want to solve problems. They don’t even have an agenda or solutions they can vote for if Democrats are willing to pass it. Republicans in Congress have but one agenda, and that is block this Democratically controlled government which the majority of Americans elected, by and all means possible, regardless of how hypocritical, contradictory, and embarrassing it becomes for them.

To me, that is the GOP leadership stupidity leading their following off the political cliff for many elections to come. McConnel and Boehner being the chief architects of this GOP suicide pact.


Posted by: David R. Remer at February 10, 2010 12:04 AM
Comment #295384

David

They are quivering in front of the American people.

You are right that Republicans have not done it to them. Republicans messed up too and that is the only thing Democrats can count on. The Republicans in Congress showed that they could not do a good job when they controlled both Houses from 2003-2007. The Democrats so far (2007-2010) showed they cannot do any better and might do worse. Let’s see what they American people want to do about 2011 and beyond.

I am not happy with either party at this point. The Republicans don’t seem to want to do anything, which is marginally better than the Democrats who seem to want to do the wrong things.

I don’t really like the strategy, but I don’t think Republicans are heading off the electoral cliff. In fact, it seems that their prospects are improving. I am almost certain that there will be more Republicans in congress next year than now. There is a good chance that they will take control of the House of Representatives. IMO that will make both parties more reasonable.

Posted by: Christine at February 10, 2010 12:17 AM
Comment #295385

David

And - BTW - you mention that the Republicans are blocking the congress elected by the majority of the American people. If/when Republicans win the majority in November, will you feel it necessary that the remaining Democrats just do along with the majority will?

Posted by: Christine at February 10, 2010 12:20 AM
Comment #295386

Christine asked: “If/when Republicans win the majority in November, will you feel it necessary that the remaining Democrats just do along with the majority will?”

As I wrote here during the last two years of the Bush administration, a do nothing Congress is harmful to our nation and its future. We have locomotive type challenges barreling at us at full speed. The minority Party’s role is to act as a check on the majority through amendments and proposals to improve the legislation proffered by the majority to solve the nation’s problems. Not to block legislation and halt all solutions.

I blamed Democrats when they did this from in 2007 and 2008, and I blame Republicans for taking the tact and strategy to unprecedented lengths, to include voting down their very own proposals just to obstruct.

Republicans are forcing Democrats to move to revise the cloture rule, because of the GROSS abuse of the filibuster by Republicans. I am not versed in the procedure to revise such a rule, but, if it is possible without running into the Republcan filibuster as an obstacle, Republicans will have dug their grave even deeper.

Overcoming Republicans filibustering obstructionist agenda with cloture revision, which is then followed by a burst of solutions to our nation’s problems unilaterally achieved by Democrats before the 2010 elections, will each and every one be an additional nail in the GOP coffin.

Be careful what you force people into. And beware the self-fulfilling prophecy. Republicans are living out a self-fulfilling prophecy of an elite minority Party. Republicans backed favored elitist lobbying interests like Wall St. banks and mortgage lenders when they were in power, and those same backers responded with unbridled greed destroying American jobs, economic growth, and ending any possibility for balanced budgets for years to come.

Rep. Boehner is still courting the GOP’s elite special interests telling Wall St. CEO’s that Republicans are carrying their water to fight oversight and regulation of Wall St. and telling them they owe their campaign contributions to Republicans, not Democrats. This is the GOP leader in the House. Republicans KNOW their agenda will never be favored by a majority of Americans if honestly represented, therefore, raising funds from the majority of citizens is not even considered, forcing them to rely on wealthy special interests in, as Boehner amply demonstrated, a quid pro quo relationship between GOP contributions and legislation favoring those contributors. Outside the arena of politics, this is known as BRIBERY and BLACKMAIL.

Democrats take money from the same wealthy special interests but, don’t carry their water into legislation unless it comports with their Democratic platform, or agenda for expanding democracy and government to fit the needs of the people. This is not a minor difference, and accounts for the Democratic Party’s historical longevity as the majority party in Congress after The Great Depression.

Republicans even tried, for ulterior motives I believe, to co-opt the Democrats position in expanding Medicare to benefit the people. But, they couldn’t let go of their favored constituency over the people, the Pharmaceutical corporations, and it backfired on them, increasing the size of government, all through deficit spending, transferring tax dollars to the pharmaceutical companies profits while creating a donut hole in coverage that the public hated.

It seems clear to me however, that the act was deliberately designed to bankrupt the government Medicare System far sooner than it otherwise would have, in order to hasten the day Republicans could save the day by ending the Medicare system which more than 90% of recipients absolutely approve of, and privatize Social Security to pay back quid pro quo Wall St. with profits from the privatized reform of Soc. Sec. out of consumers and tax payer’s dollars.

It is not writ anywhere that I am aware of that this was the GOP intent behind the Rx Drug plan legislation. But, given their philosophical and ideological opposition to entitlement programs, there just isn’t any other rational explanation of motive, as far as I can see. Which goes a very long way in explaining the GOP’s hell bent for leather drive to double the national debt in 8 years. The faster and farther the national debt climbed, the sooner they could rescue the situation by ending entitlement programs which the government and tax payers could no longer afford to sustain.

One wrinkle! Voters through them out of power before they their sham could be played out.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 10, 2010 1:18 AM
Comment #295387

Christine said: “In fact, it seems that their prospects are improving.”

Not fact, at all. GOP approval ratings are still in the toilet. And it is only going to get worse.

Democrats are now prepared to use GOP obstructionist political tactics as a sword of Damocles above the GOP’s neck. While Obama reaches out a bi-partisan hand, the media and Congressional Democrats will recount Republican’s every rebuff of Obama’s offer. This will not bode well for Republicans in November.

What is improving is media coverage of the extremists in the conservative Republican movements like the Tea Partyers, who for a short time garnered semi-positive interest from some 20% of Democrats, 35% of Independents, and more than 40% of Republicans, based on their unified theme of fiscal responsibility and dismay at the rescue of Wall St, while Main St. suffered, all the while maintaining the guise of being independents. As soon as this poll was released apparently, Republicans in S.C. realized the disguise was not working with Independents like they thought it would, and they threw off the disguise of an independent movement and merged forces with the Republican Party in S.C.

From this point forward, the American people will identify the Tea Party rightfully with the GOP, which the majority of Americans disapprove of by near 70 or 75%.

Lastly, as I said previously, if Democrats are able to revise cloture rule, the flood of results that will ensue, if done before the election, will have a dramatic effect of renewed hope and optimism amongst the voting public, and partially counter the Republicans statistical advantage of having less seats to defend in November’s races.

I don’t see their prospects improving at all at this point, and neither do most of the polls, beyond Republican’s statistical advantage. There is no doubt the Republican base will be motivated as hell to show up at the polls in November. But, that base has shrunk, and may shrink even more. And there is where your optimism seems not well founded.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 10, 2010 1:40 AM
Comment #295390

David,

It is not writ anywhere that I am aware of that this was the GOP intent behind the Rx Drug plan legislation. But, given their philosophical and ideological opposition to entitlement programs, there just isn’t any other rational explanation of motive, as far as I can see. Which goes a very long way in explaining the GOP’s hell bent for leather drive to double the national debt in 8 years. The faster and farther the national debt climbed, the sooner they could rescue the situation by ending entitlement programs which the government and tax payers could no longer afford to sustain.

I think there were other reasons behind the Rx plan. While a sure fire way to destroy medicare, I believe it was a payoff to lobbyists, and the result of an empty slate such as W. It is why he was a dangerous and poor leader. He never developed the intellectual capacity to make serious decisions.

Like Sara Palin, he was incapable of analyzing anything and was a mere puppet of his advisors. He was a steerable ship.

The GOP has no serious leaders, and hasn’t since Tom Delay was exposed as a crook and Cheney and Rove were relegated to has-been failures. It is a party of corrupt individuals seeking their own piece of pie. They have no vision, only rhetoric. McConnell and Boehner are small time crooks without a plan.

That said, I’m not sure I’d give Reid and Pelosi a much better review than their counterparts. I won’t deny Obama won’t have issues with corrupt insiders. Money and power does corrupt and attracts opportunists, but he is a leader, and I believe, is in the process of teaching the Republicans a terrible lesson. He is new to the presidency, but he is gaining his footing.

Posted by: gergle at February 10, 2010 3:47 AM
Comment #295394

Christine


“Liberals (now often calling themselves progressives) do think that the people they put in government are better than the people.”

Must be nice to be able to read minds. We do try and support the best and brightest we can find. Is there someting wrong with that?Are they better than the people. Depends. Some are pretty good people willing to sacrifice a lot for the privelege of serving the public.Is there something wrong with that? We also try not to support candidates that have to write crib notes on their hands and expect nobody to notice.

Lee
Try decaff. Unless you are on a septic system,when you flush and the turds go away government is working for you. If you call the fire department and they show up,government is working for you. If you mail a letter to your sister in Colorado and it gets there ,government is working for you.Drive on a highway, go to a park… You left out another function of government entirely,that of coordinating our common efforts and providing for the general welfare.A good number of these services actually increase your freedom.
People in government inherently better ? Of course not, but there are some damned good ones in government service.You might have noticed them on the news. Sadly,they sometimes come home in boxes.

Posted by: bills at February 10, 2010 8:01 AM
Comment #295398

Christine,

“I don’t really like the strategy, but I don’t think Republicans are heading off the electoral cliff. In fact, it seems that their prospects are improving. I am almost certain that there will be more Republicans in congress next year than now. There is a good chance that they will take control of the House of Representatives. IMO that will make both parties more reasonable.”

More hyperbole?

If the Republicans regain seats it will only be because they are better at scaring the bejeezus out of the electorate, not because they have any better clue on how to run the country.

Obama has extended the hand of “bipartisanship” only to have it bitten off at the elbow, and as a result he has been made to look weak.

IMHO, Obama should tell the Republicans to kiss off, and those that do actually have the power, as you continue to repeat aud nauseum, should start to use it.
Perhaps then we can get this country back on track again.

Rocky

Posted by: Rocky Marks at February 10, 2010 8:45 AM
Comment #295399

Christine,

I must amend my last comment to you “I don’t see their prospects improving at all at this point, and neither do most of the polls, “

I just studied the latest ABC/WAPO poll. It shows in the area of public opinion, the GOP gaining ground. However, it also shows Dem’s still ahead on nearly every measure over the GOP, even if by slim margins.

The poll however suggests that public opinion in Nov. is going to rest upon the perception of the economic recovery. Currently, only 1 in 8 believing the Recession is over. That is fertile ground for Democrats, as official declarations of the Recession having ended in 2009 are announced in early Summer (there is usually a six month lag as the data is compiled to establish certainty in its prounouncement). All economic indicators however, currently demonstrate the Recession abated after the onset Winter.

If, and it is very probable, that 1 in 8 referred to above reverts to 5 out of 8 by Summer, the issue of greatest concern for voters will have swung into Democrats favor. Consumer confidence is rising dramatically, and consumers are spending more, and these are key indicators of future public opinion regarding the economy.

Barring an EU economic meltdown resulting from Greece, or several other countries defaulting on their national debt, our own Stock Markets are poised for more significant gains in 2010 as nearly 2/3 of the Stimulus money is finally released into the economy. As workers watch their 401K’s recover deep losses incurred under Bush’s last year and the first part of 2009 through March, confidence in Democrat’s handling of the economic recovery has no place to go but up.

Obviously, this sends a political direction for Republican rhetoric and their misinformation campaigns, to distort and deny any, and all news that the economy is recovering. Which poses a real dilemma for Republicans. Because those up for reelection will be facing a 50% anti-incumbent bent by independent voters and convincing them the economy has not recovered will work against Republican incumbents in their home districts.

So, in all, I will hold to my previous claims that the anti-incumbent sentiment amongst independent voters will work against GOP incumbents as effectively as it will against Democrats. And that means Republicans picking up some seats, but, not the numbers required to regain the majority in either House of Congress.

I bet you a public compliment on WB if you are up for the wager, that my crystal ball is less broke than yours. :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 10, 2010 9:43 AM
Comment #295401

gergle, I agree about Obama. I think upon becoming president, he focused almost entirely on the agenda foresaking the Obama role as Reagan’s Democratic counterpart as a Great Communicator. I am convinced by his actions of the last month, that he has realized a great part of his success as President and for the Country, will rest on his continuing to invoke his campaign communication skills to shape public opinion, as counter to GOP efforts to own the media driven public perception, which they mostly have over the last 9 months.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 10, 2010 10:06 AM
Comment #295406

What does a government do?

It resolves disputes.

It guides the distribution of resources.

It manages the underlying structures of the economy, like currency, agreements, measurement standards and behavior by those who buy and sell.

It surpresses bad behavior in society, whether it’s violent or deceptive, that endangers the peace and good functioning of society.

So on and so forth.

We’ve had governments throughout history. Whether it’s a council of elders in a tribe, a Monarchy or a feudal system in a Kingdom, or a Democratic Republic like ours where the people have a strong influence over those who rule over them, governments have been a natural part of society.

But natural does not always mean things run smoothly. Some self-control is sapped by a strong government, but what has weak financial regulation done for the self-control of those folks on Wall Street?

Ideally, we want people to go on as much self-control as possible. It makes for simpler, more efficient governance. But where people prove chronically unable to exercise self-control, or where it’s lack in a few can cause disproportionate harm to the rest of society, the law must be laid down, and laid down firmly.

The Republicans fail to grasp this, just as some health nuts fail to grasp that the word “natural” on their food items doesn’t necessarily mean “good for you”.

Yes, people do naturally organize themselves. But not necessarily for the better. We could say that the response of some to the housing market in the middle of the Decade was perfectly natural, given the lax regulatory structure, the easy credit, and the money so many others were making. Folks were rational to seek out that profitability.

Rational, but not right. People can follow logic into error as much as they can follow bad impulses, and if enough people do it, or are allowed to do it all at once, we can see a market eventually collapse as the truth one day gets revealed.

What Liberals like myself seek is a government that is responsive to problems where the natural order of things in society and the economy betrays the better interests of both. A government that lets these catastrophes go on isn’t teach lessons to people in the markets, they’re sowing the seeds of decline in our society.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at February 10, 2010 10:30 AM
Comment #295408

David

So I guess your answer is “no”. Unless the congress does what you think it should it is not representative of the true wishes of the American people.

Re GOP prospects – both parties seem to think the Democrats will lose seats in November. It doesn’t make a lot of sense for either of us to speculate beyond the polling data. It was a shock to liberals that a Republican won in Massachusetts, where Obama won by a big margin just last year. It was a surprise when Republicans won in New Jersey, another deep blue state. It was less a surprise that Republicans won in Virginia, but it was by a larger margin than anybody expected.

We will see in November. Actually, I plan to vote for my Democratic congressman because I know and like him. But I figure the Democrats will get a spanking in November in general.

Re betting about the election – I really don’t have a detailed idea, so I am not sure that I can propose a fair bet. But let me try this one.

In 2002 – the first election after Bush was elected – Republicans enjoyed a net GAIN of 8 seats in House and s seats in the Senate. Does anybody here expect that the Democrats will do as well? Is anybody willing to wager that Democrat will gain any seats?

So we are talking about how much Republicans will gain. How about this? The Democrats had a net gain of 21 seats in 2008. I will be that Republicans will erase those gains by getting a net gain of 21.

Democrats got a net gain of 8 seats in 2008. Republican have already won a Democrat seat this year, so I will predict that Republicans will also erase Democratic gains by winning 7 more.

Why don’t you make a counter offer and we will average the amounts. I will be happy to pay you a public compliment if you are right. Anybody else want to get in on this?

Bills

We also try to support the best and brightest we can find. That is not something liberals alone do. We evidently have some disagreement about what that means.

Posted by: Christine at February 10, 2010 10:44 AM
Comment #295411

Christine said: “So I guess your answer is “no”. Unless the congress does what you think it should it is not representative of the true wishes of the American people.”

That is an absurd postulation. By definition, what I think has nothing to do with whether or not Congress represents the consensus of demands of the majority of the American people.

We have polls to determine what the public consensus is. What I think is irrelevant to those results unless I am one of the many in the polling sample, and even then, my contribution is minute to the polling result.

Christine said: “Re GOP prospects – both parties seem to think the Democrats will lose seats in November.”

Absolutely correct, based on nothing more than statistical probability based on the fact that Democrats will have more seats challenged than Republicans by virtue of occupying the majority of seats up for election. What has that to do with what I profferred? I already acknowledged this statistical probability. We agree! Good.

Christine said: “It doesn’t make a lot of sense for either of us to speculate beyond the polling data.”

The polling data is itself a speculation extrapolating from small sampling numbers to the general population, and from past time experience to future time consequences of that experience.

Speculation engages the educable capacity of an individual to consider the variables at play and ration them in accordance to their potential effect upon the outcome of future events. It is called rational discourse, engaged in to better understand the issues in play and is an exercise in honing better decision making. Don’t sell it short. This process lies at the heart of our equity and bond markets, where individuals speculate on future outcomes and bet on them.

Don’t pooh pooh and discount the very process upon which all free enterprise capitalism rests, Christine.

Christine said: “We will see in November.”

Ahh… something we can agree upon. :-)

Christine said: “We will see in November. Actually, I plan to vote for my Democratic congressman because I know and like him.”

Wow! I sure hope the majority of voters don’t use your criteria for voting. Instead, I would hope that the would evaluate their Congressman’s effectiveness in bringing about the kind of government from Congress the voter can approve of.

I think it is irrational to vote for an incumbent Congressperson whose participation in Congress resulted in my disapproval of Congress’ work and efforts, just because I like the person personally. Hence my creation of the PAC, Vote Out Incumbents Democracy. But in America, we are thankfully, all free to choose our own criteria for voting, even though it unfortunately results in too many voters believing their incumbent representatives self-approving campaign rhetoric implying Congress’s disapproval is everyone else’s fault.

Christine said: “Is anybody willing to wager that Democrat will gain any seats?”

Wager, no! Rule out the possibility? That is another thing entirely. Democrats picking up seats in one House or another is entirely possible, just not probable given he current data available regarding public sentiment. The thing about polling data however, is that it is snap shot frozen in time, while public opinion is constantly changing over time. Hence, today’s polling data is pretty much irrelevant to November’s elections, which is why I raised those other variables which will have relevance in shaping public opinion before Nov. 2.

Christine said: “I will be that Republicans will erase those gains by getting a net gain of 21.”

That’s a reasonable bet for you, but, one I wouldn’t wager because it is too far out from Nov. to make such a wager with anything better than flip of the coin odds, 21 or more seats gained vs 20 or less seats gained.

I am more comfortable with betting on Republicans not regaining the a majority in either House. That has far better odds based on the knowable issues and data that will be in play in October. When I bet, I like the odds to be in my favor. Your bet undermines the odds by have too specific and narrowly defined outcome.

I predicted that Republicans would interpret too much into Scott Brown’s victory and the two gubernatorial victories in 2009. Failure to acknowledge the anti-incumbent factor undermines Republican’s overestimate of how well their Party is going to fare in November, failing to take into account how the anti-incumbent factor is going to work against their own incumbents, as well.

The pollster Charlie Cook acknowledges the potential of Republicans picking up a majority, but, in his calculus, including more than just his polling, he says that probability is not in the bag, yet. I agree with him.

Like the WAPO/ABC poll, Cook recognizes the economy hinge upon which the Nov. elections will swing, as indicated by his polling. Economy improves, Democrats don’t lose the majority. Recession double dips, Republicans pick up a majority in one house of Congress at least.

October will witness many other variables at play, and likely, the perception of a recovering economy between its actual more stellar recovery status to Democrats’ credit, and Republican election hopes for a flat lined economic recovery being evident to the public.

Christine said to bills: “We also try to support the best and brightest we can find.”

Here, here! Best is pretty subjective, but, brightest is easier to determine with some objectivity. I like that criterion thought by itself it is insufficient to insure positive results.

Einstein was the brightest, but still refused to embrace the evidence of quantum mechanics due to ideology and faith. :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 10, 2010 11:38 AM
Comment #295417

Lee, excellent glimpse into the conservative mindset. Excellent but scary IMHO. It is all official governments fault that the other two corners of government are not perfect.

Lee stated “We would have no need to choose some set of leaders, or permit them to be imposed on us, for the organizing of functions people in commercial service are usually better suited to guiding anyway.”

And we don’t for the most part. The problem we as a society have today is the demand of the commercial service sector to take over the organizing of functions people in official government are better suited to guiding. Take health insurance as an example Lee, the individual gets less for more with the commercial service sector insurance due to the greed and efficiencies of the commercial service sector to watch out for their own profits and the expense of the individual. Over the years the commercial service sector’s health insurance has gotten much more efficient at raking in profits for the commercial service sector but not at providing better insurance coverage for the individual. So that leaves the other 2 corners of government to fix the inefficiencies of the commercial services sector. Yet many of us want more governing from the commercial services corner when in fact it doesn’t govern well at all.

Lee writes “Official government is inherently inefficient. In fact it encourages those who would insulate themselves from responsibility to the public they serve. This is because it relies on the individual self-government of officials to enforce honesty as they look after our resources.”

Would this reliance on individual self government that makes official government inefficient also cause one to think the first corner of government, individual self government, is also inherently inefficient? As we also rely upon individual self government in commercial service then logically it would seem the commercial service corner of government would also be inherently inefficient. So what is your point?

“The people who want official government to do more and ever more must divorce themselves from at least one reality. They must believe the people in government are inherently better people than those in the rest of society”

By this logic one that wants the “commercial service” sector of government to do more and ever more must believe the people in commercial service “are inherently better people than those in the rest of society”. Are they Lee?

Posted by: j2t2 at February 10, 2010 4:01 PM
Comment #295419

David

Re the wager - I was just responding to your request. Neither of us indeed can predict the future. IF we could, I am sure we would be making the big bucks doing it.

I am not sure what you are proposing for the wager. I proposed that Republicans would win back all the seats they lost in 2008,which I think is pretty amazing. But let’s just play this game through, recognizing that none of us knows the truth but we can all guess.

I propose that Republicans will gain a net of 21 seats in the House and 7 (eight counting Brown) in the Senate. Why don’t we all make predictions, for fun, and see who comes closest?

Posted by: Christine at February 10, 2010 5:12 PM
Comment #295428

David Remer, When I’m talking about the “narrowing of options” I mean from an individual perspective. All civility is made possible by accepting that, for the sake of coexisting with other people, there are things we won’t do. We don’t eat our fellow humans, for example. That may sound comically ridiculous but that’s in part because we are so socially acculturated that certain possibilities are blinkered from our minds.

j2t2, There has been a long-term record of government interfering with the medical insurance marketplace. What we know as this marketplace exists, for example, because the government froze wages during W.W.II, creating a market for ways to sneak value into employment agreements. That vacuum was filled with things like insurance benefits that had never been provided en-masse by employers before.
In the 1980s the government felt the need to muck about in the insurance market again and started mandating the KIND of insurance that must be provided by forcing HMOs on many kinds of contracts. Later yet, in the 90’s, Congress changed course, mandating that HMOs be replaced with PPOs in many instances. All the while both national and state governments were requiring contracts to contain coverages insurers would not have offered on their own- even as it was during that time getting easier to sue both doctors and insurers. This created incentives for both to load their practices up with procedures staff meant to show extraordinary diligence to juries.

In the 1960s my pediatrician’s office had a doctor, a nurse and a receptionist. A decade ago my children’s pediatrician told me he wouldn’t dare be in practice alone, even as the much larger practice in which he was a partner was being folded into Texas Children’s Hospital’s Pediatic Associates. All of the additional people necessary to staff and administer these huge practices necessitated by legal interferance cost money and deliver no medical care.

Add all this to the perverse economics of the idea of third-party payers in the first place and you have a recipe for failure.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 10, 2010 9:28 PM
Comment #295429

Henry Schlatman,

Yes, this is different from “left” and “right”. This article is really written to set up another that is in the works making exactly that point. Why do neither liberals nor conservatives feel they’ve gotten what they want once they’ve elected people from “their” party?

Because the conservative/liberal dichotomy is false. There is another dimension and the three points on the triangle of governance I’ve laid out in this article give a much better indication of how it works than some linear abstraction primarily intended to empower either government or corporations.

Posted by: Lee Jamison at February 10, 2010 9:39 PM
Comment #295437

Christine, mine is that the GOP does not achieve a majority in either house of Congress. Simple and straightforward without have to calculate point spreads, etc. :-)

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 11, 2010 12:20 AM
Comment #295440

David

So you think that the Republicans will make significant gains but fall short of a majority, or do you think the Democrats will hold on to their 2008 gains? There is a lot of difference between those two places.

If Democrats cannot control congress with what they have now, they certainly will not be able to do it with fewer members. Maybe they will become more moderate and we will get more done.

One more thing, you make a big deal about the Democrats not having even 59 votes because of the two independents. Do you mean that? So if Republicans equal or outnumber Democrats (w/o counting those two), do you think they have won?

Posted by: Christine at February 11, 2010 1:10 AM
Comment #295443

Lee,
Please post it here when you get it done. For why Americas’ Adults and Parents must maintian control of the Debate of Labor and Management, I do want to see the expression on the Charlatans and Vagabonds of Washington and the World when they realize the Establishment of America is not joking.

Because why My Brothers and Sisters of the 70’s might have to set down as their Children greatly improve upon the Government and Society of the Youth of the 60’s and Silver Spoons of the 70’s. Knowing Labor and Management are going to have to work together to achieve the Amerocan Dream, I would love to hear Americas’ Democratic and Republican Civil, Political, and Religious Leaders of the 21st Century say they understand a Race to the Top.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at February 11, 2010 3:06 AM
Comment #295448

“There has been a long-term record of government interfering with the medical insurance marketplace. What we know as this marketplace exists, for example, because the government froze wages during W.W.II, creating a market for ways to sneak value into employment agreements. That vacuum was filled with things like insurance benefits that had never been provided en-masse by employers before.”

Lee the government did not force any company to provide health insurance as part of wage and price controls during WWII. In fact it was the companies efforts to evade the wage and price controls that is the problem. GM had started providing insurance benefits in the ‘20’s for 180,000 of its employees, which I suppose is also the governments fault because they stood by and did nothing.

“In the 1980s the government felt the need to muck about in the insurance market again and started mandating the KIND of insurance that must be provided by forcing HMOs on many kinds of contracts.”

HMO’s were a Nixon plan from the early ‘70’s Lee. What happened in the 80’s was much more nefarious, hospitals and doctors became corporations. This again was not mandated by the government.

“This created incentives for both to load their practices up with procedures staff meant to show extraordinary diligence to juries.”

In your frantic search to blame all things on government you fail to mention the AMA and their reluctance to police the bad doctors. You fail to mention the changing mindset that began during the Reagan years that pointed America and the medical community towards privatization and control of the medical industry. You fail to mention the rising profits of hospitals and doctors as well as the increase in costs due to technology, medicine and the inflation of the ‘70’s.

“All of the additional people necessary to staff and administer these huge practices necessitated by legal interferance cost money and deliver no medical care.”

Lee do you realize that many of these people are needed because of the many different insurance companies the Doctor’s have to deal with? The legal interference is by and large insurance company caused not ambulance chasing lawyers. With a single payer plan…

I suppose the government is at fault for the recent 39% increase in rates by Wellpoint despite record profits because they dared to consider health insurance reform. It is hard to fix the problem Lee when it seems we can’t even figure out the cause of the problem isn’t it. But IMHO, within the context of your post the commercial services corner of government seems to have gotten greedy. Perhaps that corner is the problem not the solution.

Posted by: j2t2 at February 11, 2010 9:11 AM
Comment #295450

Christine asked: “So you think that the Republicans will make significant gains but fall short of a majority, or do you think the Democrats will hold on to their 2008 gains? There is a lot of difference between those two places.”

I think Republicans will make gains without achieving majority numbers. Whether they are significant gains or not otherwise, calls for a subjective response defining the word, significant, which I am unable to muster.

Christine said: “If Democrats cannot control congress with what they have now, they certainly will not be able to do it with fewer members. Maybe they will become more moderate and we will get more done.”

Another possibility is revising the cloture vote requirement from 60 votes to 51. Then too, far more progress will be made than is now being made, in terms of taking action on the challenges we face.

Christine said: “One more thing, you make a big deal about the Democrats not having even 59 votes because of the two independents. Do you mean that?”

Why would I say it, if I didn’t mean it? No smiley face or wink following the comment.

Facts: Lieberman was opposed to the Democrats plan early on and forced Democrats into modifications they would otherwise not have made in order to get his vote. Sanders is an all out proud Socialist who continued to resist Senate Democrats all along due to the absence of a single payer option, and then further, after capitulating on that, resisting Senate Democrats due to the absence of a public option.

The fact of the matter was, Lieberman and Sanders, as Independents, resisted Democrats proposals, and Lieberman forced changes which the House Democrats would not accept.

Christine asked: “So if Republicans equal or outnumber Democrats (w/o counting those two), do you think they have won? “

I don’t understand your question? Won? Obviously, they will have won the majority, but, not single party control of the Senate because of those two independents. To have single party control of the Senate, all 60 seats must be held by one party.

Of course, on an issue by issue basis, those Independents may vote with or against the majority party, or negotiate changes for their vote that the majority party would not otherwise have fashioned, and throwing the negotiations amongst the majority party members back into flux. That is the reality of the Senate with a 60 vote cloture requirement and a majority not occupying 60 seats.

Very simple math. Not complicated at all. An eighth grader should be capable of grasping these simple arithmetic ratios regarding the difference between majority and supermajority attending the cloture vote requirement.

Posted by: David R. Remer at February 11, 2010 9:30 AM
Comment #295453

David

I am a simple person (and John says that he is even simpler). All we want to know the number you want to “bet” on. How much do you think the Republicans will gain? Or we can ask, how much do you think the Democrats will lose?

How about a simple chart for you (and others)

Republican gain

Low Republican gain

0-5 House 0-3 Senate

Moderate Republican gain

6-15 House 4-5 Senate

Big Republican gain

16-21 House 6-7 Senate (this one erases Dem gains from 2008)

Republican blowout

21+ House 7+ in Senate

I understand that none of us has any inside information. Of course all my categories assume levels of declining Democratic popularity. If someone wants to proposal a more popular Democratic scenario, I am open.

I going to go with the big Republican gain.

Posted by: Christine at February 11, 2010 10:46 AM
Comment #295463

Christine, I’ll play the crystal ball game with you.

I’ll say moderate Republican Gain.

I see them picking up Senate seats in ND, DE, NV, AR
And maybe one or two seats out of IL, CO and PA.
However, I think the Democrats will pickup the seat in MO giving the GOP a net gain of four to six. However, the GOP might win up to 20 seats in the House, although I think 15 seats is a bit more realistic of a prediction.

The only guarantee I can make about what I just said is that its definitely going to be shown wrong. I just don’t know how.

Posted by: Warped Reality at February 11, 2010 2:39 PM
Comment #295464


I can’t shake the feeling that this bipartisan war going on in Washington and around the country is over the top play acting tending towards a staged event.

It certainly has taken the focus off the greatest scandal in American history.

It has taken the focus off what happened to the money. What’s that old saying, one man’s loss is anothers gain.

It has taken the focus off the main players and promoted the consensus that everything was caused by a few bank employees for big bonuses.

There were quite a number of big investors, regulators and politicians involved and all the warnings, going back as far as ten years before the busted bubble were ignored.

If there is one thing that politicians love it is investigations and yet there is no big Congressional investigation into the greatest scandal in American History.

Honesty, sincerity and integrity are the traits that have to be faked well. If you can do it, you to may have a long and distinguished career as a incumbent politician. If a crack appears in the facade your loyal followers might ignore it or they might end your long and distinguished career as a politician.

Why can’t the Senate pass financial regularity reform.

Senator Dodd: Because of the lobbyists.

Senator Shelby: Because the financial sector has some mighty powerful lobbyists.

Senator Dodd, isn’t it true that you receive a lot of contributions from financial lobbyists?

Senator Dodd: Yes, but if your thinking they are buying my vote you are wrong. I want to write many tougher regulations into the bill.

Why don’t you do that?

Senator Dodd: Because the other members of my committee won’t vote for them.

Posted by: jlw at February 11, 2010 2:58 PM
Comment #295465


correction: Why can’t the Senate pass financial regulatory reform.

Posted by: jlw at February 11, 2010 3:04 PM
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