Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn

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102 Responses

  1. Kim says:

    “And there’s no reason to think that just because an exchange didn’t in fact occur, such an outcome was necessarily precluded by circumstances at the time. Things could always have been different.”

    Game Theory suggests that in a reasonably trusting relationship, a 30 minute window remains adequate to shout “Did you just launch all your nukes at us???” without need to retaliate.

    This at least suggests that any interchange of nuclear weapons would be intentional and deliberate.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Kim says:

      Would you have considered that relationship reasonably trusting?Report

      • Kim in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        considering that there were upwards of ten different “oh my gawd, someone launched nuclear weapons” that turned out to be geese on the radar (or similar).


        I think destroying that reasonably trusting relationship would have required structural changes to both countries scientific/military establishment. Not impossible through politics, but far more unlikely than “we elected Senator Hothead”Report

    • Dan Miller in reply to Kim says:

      The fact that we’re resting the continued existence of humanity on game theory isn’t in any way comforting. As long as it’s even possible for humanity to destroy itself (as with a full-scale nuclear war or really bad climate change), we should worry. Game over isn’t something to fish around with–and it’s a capacity that we’ve developed, as a species, only in the last half-century or so.Report

    • Patrick Cahalan in reply to Kim says:

      > Game Theory suggests that in a reasonably
      > trusting relationship, a 30 minute window
      > remains adequate to shout “Did you just
      > launch all your nukes at us???” without
      > need to retaliate.

      Er. What? You’re going to have to point me at a citation for this one.

      Not to mention the fact that game theory is… a debatable methodology for analyzing international politics.Report

      • Kim in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:
        … this is honestly a decent, quick google.
        And, as shown by more reliable sources than my memory, what I really meant was cross-checking without talking with the other side (aka, we have multiple warning systems).

        50% chance of India and Pakistan having a nuclear war within the five years from when they got mutual nukes [chance has gone down over time, in no small part because the Americans were aware of this, and made sure that 70’s era mainframes weren’t running ANYONE’s nuclear weapons.]. They have five minutes.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to Patrick Cahalan says:

        Game theory assumes a world of perfectly rational, sober, level-headed politicians. But wars happen when the politicians stop doing their jobs, as the late BlaiseP said once.Report

        • Kim in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          war’s merely politics by alternate means. Wars happen when the zero-sum game regime (or negative-sum yikes!) applies. Is it any wonder that we’re gearing up for resource wars?Report

          • Christopher Carr in reply to Kim says:

            I cannot imagine a scenario where it would ever be rational for any party to have a full scale war between major powers that are economically integrated.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              scarcity and zero sum gamesmanship. If you can take from your friend, you do. only in positive sum games can long term cooperation be assumed.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Kimmi says:

                That goodness it’s obvious to all that economics is not zero sum!Report

              • E.C. Gach in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                It’s not, but there does seem to be a part of it that is that way, or at least appears zero-sum at first blush.

                Sure, we can grow the pie and everyone can get something, though some more than others. But in each moment of pie growth, someone gets x, someone get’s y, and until the next meaningful piece of growth, it certain seems zero-sum.

                Perhaps I’m just not well aquianted with the economics that addresses this concern. But at any given time, GDP is finite. While it can grow, there will only ever be a certain amount.

                The 90s is a good example, where for parts of the decade, nearly all growth in GDP (in the U.S.) went to a limited number of households. It certainly felt zero-sum.

                Likewise, interdependence between the U.S. and China certainly yields greater economic benefits than either country could realize on their own. But as both countries have high Gini coefficients, it’s not clear that those economic benefits are being realized by the lower segments of either country.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Christopher Carr says:

                … for now, Christopher Carr, for now. But it is also obvious that it may become negative sum in the future. And because we like to be prepared, we’re preparing for that contingency too.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to Kimmi says:

                I don’t think the economy will ever become anything less than clearly positive-sum, despite undue outrage at things like CEO pay. Just saying that makes me check around the room for any hubris-targeting lightning bolts, but I really find it hard to believe that, even if we completely exhaust our resources (which is unlikely since there are trillion-dollar asteroids to be reaped), people will stop finding ways to recombine already-appropriated matter that make us all better off.Report

        • North in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          He’s not late, he’s just busy! Busy doing real life stuff. He’ll be back once his work slows down, or at least I hope he will *runs away in tears*.Report

  2. MFarmer says:

    I’m not sure if this place is taking a hard Left turn or just a complete anti-GOP approach to politics If it’s the latter, this doesn’t make sense when you take the actions of both parties into account. I fail to see where cronyism, militarism, civil liberty violations or social engineering have been charateristics of just the Republican Party. This recent hyperbolic GOP trashing is not credible or balanced, therefore it comes across as talking points — the attacks are cliches rather than substantive and nuanced. Certainly there’s some understanding of some GOP’s positions, and that their opposition is not totally cynical and misguided. As much as I think the Democrat Party has become an interventionist disaster in the economy, I have sympathy with the basic ideas of civil liberties and social issues regarding poverty. I think the Dem Party has been too resistant to re-evaluating the welfare state and accepting innovation regarding poverty issues, but I don’t think they are all cynical dolts. I just don’t understand the absolute denigration of the GOP and TP as if they are non-human, monsters out to destroy the poor and middle class.Report

    • North in reply to MFarmer says:

      Write up a guest post on the subject and submit it old boy. I have no doubt it’d be aired. To paraphrase the ever quotable Jaybird, be the balance you say is missing. I certainly use your writings at bonzai as my right wing GOP-libertarian ballast (Freddie’s your left wing counterpart in my warped internet world).Report

    • Kim in reply to MFarmer says:

      … it would help if you actually knew ’em. Then we could discuss the differences between the Tea Party, and its backers, in terms of both morality and sociopathy.

      Cronyism as seen in Bush’s DoJ hasn’t been seen this CENTURY, from either party. I haven’t seen so many honest Republicans crying themselves to sleep about being unable to do their jobs… since I don’t know when. Hell, the CIA wanted Clinton Back! And they hated Clinton.

      I’ll drop my cents about the problems with Obama’s DoJ some other time. But they’re significant, and diametrically opposite to those of bush (and i don’t mean dem cronyism!)

      Republicons are welcome to register their disagreement. [You’ll get called your party’s name, when you will use the actual name of the Democratic party. namecalling may be childish, but I’m doing it to prove a point.]

      The Tea Party’s backers do plan to reduce the middle class to poverty, in order to retain the riches that they’ve gained during the last fiscal collapse. I don’t think it will WORK, mind, but I do know their plans.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to Kim says:

        Obama’s greatest failure is his faith in the decency of humankind.Report

      • Lyle in reply to Kim says:

        Re the cronyism in the twenth century you had the able and great president Warren G Harding who let his cronies make money teapot dome and the like. In the 19th you had US Grants cronies both of who echoed Pope Julius II who I believe said We have been made pope let us make the most of it.
        Note the tea party is partly a reaction to the elite telling folks how to live and not listening to how they want to live, as the elite believe they know better. (And of course fly around in private Jets as well) This ranges from the love of urban environments etc. Read the recent dust ups on lemonade stands and the controversies about Food Trucks and local politicians protecting incumbent restaraunts. (Actually if I were directing things I would say to a lot run for city council, and abolish municipal regulations, for example anyone who meets some standard can run a cab.) At the state level reduce the number of positions that need licenses, such as the rule recently overturned that monks could not make coffins in LA because they were not funeral directors.Report

        • E.C. Gach in reply to Lyle says:

          Anecdotal cases about children’s lemonade stands only cheapen the need for legitimate reform.

          See Erik’s post from earlier today. Is the capitalist energy of restaurants, lemonade stands and cabbies really what needs to be unleashed? I’m all for smart reforms, but for every stupid regulation, there’s 10 other that make sense and protect public health and saftey.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to MFarmer says:

      I can appreciate that sentiment M. My natural inclination is to be a bit outraged, but the tone should really be more tragic. To the degree that any of the assertions or connections I make are true, I don’t mean that to lay blame at anyone’s feet. I think the GOP is “responsible” in a cause and effect way, not that they specifically malicious or blameworthy.

      I think in part, that’s why I want to highlight some structural reasons for not only why I think it’s specifically Republican tactics that are undermining the political process, but why the current state of things also incentivizes this sort of behavior.

      One could imagine a wave of Democratic demoguagery against small business and corporations, undermining their credibility and capacity to the point of ruining one of the pillars that is fundamental to American success. We’re not at that point though currently.

      And though I agree with Tod Kelly that, especially in a two-party system, the pendulum will swing back, and the balance will return and then go the other way, my fear is that at one of these “swings” of the pendulum could be especially dramatic.

      This current swing, fueled by GOP rhetoric, to distrust and deamonize government (another fundamental pillar of American success) seems at present at least, to be where the danger exists.Report

    • Robert Cheeks in reply to MFarmer says:

      Mike, I think our leadership senses what’s coming…a complete repudiation of the derailed ideas.
      Actually it may be more than that, it may be one of those seminal political moments when the American people realize what the Left is and finally acts, maybe for a generation.
      You’re right there’s an aire of frustration, angst, and hostility that’s running through many of the blogs posted, that are just fascinating, and fun to read. It’s kind-a like the Fuhrer’s bunker, late April, ’45. And, Barry just keeps fishing up, and fishing up!Report

  3. Christopher Carr says:

    Several points:

    1. Radicalism is usually moderated by history because it is opposed with equal and opposite radicalism.

    2. I find myself in the awkward position of defending the Republican Party here. I think it’s far more likely that the incentives structure is all screwed up and what we’re seeing isn’t any calculated irrationality but just an emergent property of a system that needs to be cleaned up.

    3. “The center doesn’t vote and is easily confused.” I disagree with this as well. The center usually votes for whoever it thinks will screw up its non-political indifferent lives the least. This is virtuous I think.

    4. “Imagine a program with the purpose of deleting itself, thus repetitiously chasing its own tail with the aim of self-annihilation. That’s the Republican Party of the moment in a nutshell.” – If this were true of the Republican Party, I’d be an unabashed Republican partisan, only the last ten years of Republican politics suggest otherwise. If I didn’t think Republicans were going to cut valuable services to the poor before tax breaks and structural benefits for the rich then I’d vote for small government in a heart beat.

    “We’ve heard this line often enough now. Moderates, centrists, and Broderian compromisers complain about Congressional incivility while partisans and political historians remind us that it’s always been that way.” – Which brings me to my central criticism of this piece: what’s changed is the scope of the game. Government – not my team or your team – is the problem. Decision-making power concentrated in few (too human) hands is what’s different this time around and why circumstances are so dire.

    Systemic risk.Report

    • Kim in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      … a systemic risk that the Democrats don’t have, at the moment. When your sole source of information is your priest, that’s a lot different from hearing from all your backers and taking all their views into consideration.
      single points of failure are different from aggregations of multiple points of failure, even if they look similar.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to Kim says:

        I certainly agreed with you in 2008, but we’ve only seen the sitting President ratchet up Bush failures since.Report

        • Kim in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          his executing beats bush’s by a long mile. he ain’t doin’ so hot on legislating, but that’s not really his purview.Report

          • Renee in reply to Kim says:

            Increased prosecutions of government whistleblowers?
            Increased targeted killings with drones?
            Increased prosecution of medical marijuana distributors in states where it is legal?
            Are those not executive decisions? Where is he significantly better than Bush?Report

            • Kim in reply to Renee says:

              I’m going to go out on a limb and say that no one in Obama’s DoJ has been fired for being a Republican — explicitly, in those terms.
              Obama has put good people in charge of most positions, and isn’t biasing everything towards a “Democratic” slant.
              And Obama’s DoJ doesn’t explicitly fail to do its job, so that corporations can run amuck (the other way, however… your point is well taken about whistleblowers).

              So, in short, as an administrator, he is heads and shoulders better than Bush.

              (didn’t know that one about marijauan distros, actually…)Report

              • Thomas in reply to Kim says:

                No one in the Bush DOJ was ever fired for being a Democrat. To suggest otherwise is a lie. Explicitly. In those terms.

                Obama has put liberal Democrats in every position. You may think that makes them good people, but that’s just politics.Report

              • Kim in reply to Thomas says:

                … except that someone is on record as doing exactly that. Lookitup.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Renee says:

              He killed Osama!Report

              • Renee in reply to Jaybird says:

                Fair enough . . . he isn’t actively evil in his management of DOJ and he has nominated some decent folks. So better than Bush. (I’m pretty sure Bush would have given the OK to killing Osama as well . . . ) At the same time he has no problem taking us into, err, kinetic military action without Congressional approval despite the advice of the Attorney General. I.e. he isn’t exactly humble about the limits of executive power (similar to W).
                To be fair to O – I think much of it has more to do with institutional inertia than his personal failings (esp. on the drug war). He has to pick where he spends his time and political capital. But in this sense I agree with Christopher Carrs comment that the problem is the systemic risk of having a large government regardless of who is in charge.Report

              • North in reply to Renee says:

                Don’t forget the powerful incentives of “cover your ass”.

                That said I don’t excuse Obama for it. He’s been an astonishingly change shy politician considering he campaigned with Change written in big letters on his banners.Report

              • Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

                Geez, I thought it was some ‘Six’ guy?Report

    • Plinko in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      I agree with 2 very much. I find a lot of Republican politics revolting but it is not helpful to claim that the cause is that Republican politicians/voters have suddenly become evil/stupid. We have to look for how and why the system is selecting and rewarding what seem to be negative outcomes and fix the system. Cyclical throwing out of the bums clearly does not work, we just keep getting more bums because the system we built selects for bums and/or creates incentives where the most logical course of action is to be a bum.

      Where I disagree is that the scope of government is the pivotal factor. If that were the case, we’d see similar problems in the rest of Western Europe where governments are even larger. Yet, we really don’t. I find more persuasive the school of thought that the pivotal changes were first the political re-alignments that came from the Civil Rights Act and the end of the Cold War.Report

      • Renee in reply to Plinko says:

        Plinko – You’re comparison with W. European countries is interesting. What we have here, I think, is a mismatch between scope and design. In another post at this sight Gach wrote about the advantage of a parliamentary system. I contend that for a large scope National government, a parliamentary system is preferable. But we are trying to run a large scale, national government in a system designed for a small-scoped federal government. It’s not surprising that we have systemic problems.Report

        • Christopher Carr in reply to Renee says:

          “But we are trying to run a large scale, national government in a system designed for a small-scoped federal government.” – Very well put. A parliamentary system allows for more nuanced representation and so it can grow larger without taking on systemic risk. Ours, which I personally prefer to a parliamentary system provided it stays within the scope it was designed to stay within, cannot grow as large as it is today without becoming the two-headed monster we all hate but are powerless to stop.Report

    • Jim P. in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      “Which brings me to my central criticism of this piece: what’s changed is the scope of the game. Government – not my team or your team – is the problem. Decision-making power concentrated in few (too human) hands is what’s different this time around and why circumstances are so dire.”

      I have to disagree with this as a point that refutes this piece. You cannot say that government is at fault without first realizing that the government is that whim of a two party system. A system that has become more contentious since the powers of each party became more equal (Democrats had a vast majority till the 80s/90s in congress) we can say is to blame, but the actors in that system can be worse or better towards its operation. The mentality that our party is only going to win if we steer and control the boat is the problem. It is certainly a relevant point that our current power in government is in the hands of fewer people and central (especially in terms of parties). Yet, that is because one party has made it there objective to try and control the entire game and not work together. Instead of working together one party has decided to attempt to destroy the other for control.

      We can sit here and say the problem is systemic, but these parties create and control the system. If one party creates or maintains a system we don’t agree with its the parties fault because contrary to your point, they are not zombies or mindless individuals subject to the entire whims of the system.

      Thus, it is valid to both repudiate the party and the system without one excusing the other for its actions.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Christopher Carr says:

      Chris, did you read where I wrote about how the current state of electoral politics incentivizes their behavior?

      The point isn’t to blame Republicans, though they should be responsible for their actions in part, no matter what mechanisms are controlling them, it’s to note that due to a number of factors the GOP is going down a dark road that may, because of the unique economic and social moment, actually do some lasting damage to the political system.

      I do think there are problems with the system, and they should be addressed, but you’re not going to do that with an obstructionist GOP calling the shots.

      That’s why I’m of half a mind to hasten their return to power, so that their recent nihilistic turn can run it’s course as soon as possible.Report

    • CC – Two things. I like this comment – a lot. Time permitting I want to flesh out some of these points with you, but just in case I don’t get that time: Great stuff.Report

  4. Renee says:

    Lofgren writes:
    “where is the popular anger directed, at least as depicted in the media? At “Washington spending” – which has increased primarily to provide unemployment compensation, food stamps and Medicaid to those economically damaged by the previous decade’s corporate saturnalia.”

    Really? Spending has increased primarily to help those in need? I would be thrilled to be proved wrong, but it appears to me that most of the increased spending has gone to bailing out banks and on corporate welfare. The leftover money that actually flows to the needy is a benefit to both parties: so Dems can support it and Repubs can oppose it. Everybody wins!

    I agree with Tod Kelly’s original take that what we’re seeing here is not entirely new: both political parties will say and (if really necessary) act how they need to to stay in power (at least that’s what I thought he was saying). Although the GOP’s rhetoric and tactics are particularly loathsome, they are simply doing what they do best: trying to tap into what will get them votes and allow them to gain power.

    I also find goofy the notion of Lofgren’s 1890’s farmer who knew exactly “which economic interests were shafting him.” Yes! What we need is more voters who push for the government to interfere in the economy to protect their special interests. Tariffs all around. Similarly, we are informed above of the tragedy of the voter who spends 5 minutes educating himself on his vote. There are some of us who dream for a world where politics is inconsequential enough to our daily lives that 5 minutes would be more than sufficient time to spend on a congressional election.Report

  5. Bill Kilgore says:

    In response to these challenges, the Republican answer is to burn down the American experiment

    Can you explain what the phrase “American experiment” means in this context? You seem to insisting that a particular slice of Americ’a political history is synonymous with the “American experiment.” In addition to disagreeing with that claim, I would add that what you are really doing- much like many of our modern progressives- is taking a reactionary stance to any effort to cut back on the expansion of the Federal Government. Insisting that any effort to do so is some act for which the proponents must apologize as they are sinners against the American Experiment.

    Accordingly, I guess my ultimate question would be, of the two parties, which side is the conservative one again?Report

    • Kim in reply to Bill Kilgore says:

      *snort* here I thought the American experiment had moved to Japan, and that we were on the British “free market” system. (aka no tariffs)Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Bill Kilgore says:

      No one party does, or should, encapsulate a complete conservative or liberal philosophy. Idealy, and I think in practice, both parties exhibit both tendencies.

      Cutting back on the expansion of government is one thing. But it’s not the same thing as defaming and delegitimzing the institution. Urging that governemnt shrink or play a lesser role in public life because that’s how government could be more effective and our society more prosperous is different from opposing “government” at ever turn.

      By American experiment I mean the country’s political institutions and civic compact. Republicans aren’t just saying that government does bad things, they are saying that everything the government touches (with the noted caveats) withers and dies.Report

  6. DarrenG says:

    Spending has increased primarily to help those in need? I would be thrilled to be proved wrong, but it appears to me that most of the increased spending has gone to bailing out banks and on corporate welfare.

    This is only true if you limit it to FY2009 alone. The overall net effect on spending from the bank and auto bailouts has turned out to be minimal to the point that we may even end up making a small profit on one or both in the end.

    When looking at the entire period of the economic downturn to date, Lofgren is right in that the lion’s share of increased spending has been on social safety net programs.Report

  7. Shane says:

    Igne Naturae Renovatur IntegraReport

  8. Dennis Brown says:

    Please – all this talk that republicans aren’t irresponsible is disproved by a very significant fact that does prove that they are terribly irresponsible. Human induced climate warming (AGW) is a scientific fact. Any one is free to disagree for reasons of personal gain or just because they are too lazy to bother to learn very easy to obtain proof written at a level most high school students could easily understand. But no one can claim it is not scientifically proven fact unless then use stand methods that apply to all sciences. That is, to say otherwise requires scientific proof that is peer reviewed by people in the field – that is the scientific method. No one has done that todate and that is a fact.

    So, any large political party that has access to scientific experts and this party is unable to show in any standard method that these scientific facts are incorrect and then they officially deny current AGW facts and related future projections, then they are flat out lying. That makes them irresponsible – period.

    If you then claim such a political party is not being highly irresponsible, then you are not a person who uses reason and can be ignored since you are just making noise. Then such a person’s argument about republicans not being irresponsible is flat out wrong since that party are the very same group that denies AGW and does all in its power to prevent any significant effort to stem this planetary disaster in the making.

    As a result, people who are not in any way responsible for the vast majority of AGW will die first and in very large numbers yet this is ok by a political party because profit matters more than lives? Yes, `if AGW would only caused minor economic harm to (Us) the elite then this might very well outweigh a few lives but AGW is going to be very large and harm millions – this is a scientific fact.Report

    • Kim in reply to Dennis Brown says:

      … few things here (and I’m on your side).
      1) lying on AGW is only bad if it will be a severe problem,a nd if not lying will help you solve it.
      2) GOP appears to be pivoting with their “clean nuclear energy” position and “no foreign oil” position, into a stance that will dovetail with much of what an actual AGW proponent would say.Report

  9. Rufus F. says:

    It’s certainly possible that Republicans just see government bloat and debt in much the same way that Democrats see global warming: a man-made disaster waiting to happen that reflects decades of moneyed interests looking the other way and pretending it’s not happening, and which needs to be solved for the sake of future generations, even if the measures necessary to solve it are politically unpopular; similarly, they might see the other side as obstructionists who are blocking the serious measures that need to be taken because it’s in their own economic interest to continue looking the other way. I’m not sure their position is crazy any more than I’m sure the global warming position is fanatical.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Rufus F. says:

      If that were really the case Rufus, wouldn’t they have taken the Dems up on a more optimal debt-deal?

      Yield to a modest raise in taxes while shrinking the defense and discretionary budgets in exchange for a simpler tax code with no expenditures and modest cuts to entitlments.

      Based on their actions and rhetoric at least, they clearly don’t regard the debt as a man-made disaster that poses an existential threat to the country.

      If they did, would they really seek to discredit government to the point of making it impossible to pay down the national debt?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Wouldn’t AGW proponents support more Natural Gas and Nuclear Powerplants?Report

        • E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird says:

          I was of the mind that a good portion do support nuclear, and are mostly against natural gas because it comes dettached from any fundamental reform elsewhere.

          The carbon savings of natural gas don’t make a difference when the same amount of coal is going to continue to be burned in the short term.

          But if you have public opinion surveys showing that most people who believe in global warming are against both of those things, let me know.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to E.C. Gach says:

            “most people who believe in global warming”

            I’d settle for those in power who claim to act on behalf of those who believe in global warming actually moving on the topic.

            Or is publically saying stuff sufficient? (You know, I’ve suspected…)Report

            • E.C. Gach in reply to Jaybird says:

              For sure, the environmental movement is an incoherent joke. It’s divided along neo/liberal lines as usual. The “hardcore” segment of the enviro movement undermines the cause while neo-libs try to seek solutions that appeal to business.

              James Lovelock is pretty clear on this, and Europe’s environmental movement is for the most part ahead of ours on this. Perhaps that’s because of the formation of something like Britain’s tory-environmental coalition.

              Eitherway, yes, dems are ineffectual, but is that as bad as being powerfully negative? Perhaps, I’m unsure.Report

        • Robert Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

          I do and I think AGW is political science!Report

      • Rufus F. in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        Well, they might if they thought the Democrats in government caused the problem in the first place, right? To keep with my tenuous comparison, do we expect people who are convinced of the urgency of combating global warming to accept whatever partial measures Exxon suggests?Report

  10. Tod Kelly says:

    EC – First and foremost, great post as usual. It’s hard for me to argue with much here, especially since – as I said in my last post – I am keenly aware that the picture you paint here is the one commonly seen; I think I am fairly alone in my stance. Most of what I might argue about here I feel I already have – again, with my last post – and don’t want to clutter up your threads doing a series of rehashing. That being said, and at the risk of being overly Pollyanna-ish, I think where I disconnect with most can be found in the following consensus “givens” you give voice to here, which are items I am not yet convinced are true:

    “The radicalization of the GOP is evident in their willingness to sacrifice political popularity by threatening default”

    I still argue this is not the case. I think that the GOP are taking actions that are rewarding the individual members who are making them. These “unpopular” decisions are quite popular with populist media consumers, and taking the positions they have been taking get them fawning coverage on national and local FOX affiliates. But I hasten to say I suspect that while most of these populist consumers love the idea of paying less taxes and having less government, most don’t think that far beyond it. Had their been an actual government shutdown, I believe a replay of Clinton’s first term would have taken place. What’s more, I think the GOP thought the exact same thing, which is why Boenher was obviously so nervous about them actually succeeding in doing this. What they did instead was essentially say they were going to shut down government and that would be so awesome, but in the end didn’t. (I should also add I think their agreeing to raise the debt limit was purely a self-preservation move. Again, I think they knew what the next election would be like if their constituents suddenly loss services, Social Security checks and Medicare benefits.)

    “take advantage of a weak Presidency by running dismal, B-team candidates”

    I also don’t agree with this. Or to be more specific, I certainly agree that they are dismal B-team candidates, but similarly to the Dems in the 80s I think its all they really have or can have without a coherent direction. I don’t think enough about the braintrust of the current GOP to believe this is part of a nuanced, behind the curtain 5-chess-moves-ahead strategy.

    “fewer and fewer Americans trust their national political institutions to put the country on the right track, and one of the two parties has found a formula for gaining support while eschewing responsibility”

    I agree with the this, but will still say that I don’t today ranks in the top 3 times in my lifetime in terms of “lack of trust in institutions.” But even though I think the part here about the GOP is correct, I argue that it has one of two realistic ways of playing out: The first is that voters ultimately reject this policy based on anti-, and this forces the GOP to figure things out and grow up. The second is that they are successful, regain substantial power, and they and their supporters will magically do what they always do – suddenly agree that overreaching government and spending is wicked awesome. (The possibility that they gain power and begin systematically shutting down the vehicle to that power I categorically reject as a realistic possibility.)

    With all that being said, I still must confess that there are two factors that might prove me very, very wrong. The first is the success of the GOP media machine, which means that it is possible for the upper leadership to be more personally profitable in down times than good. I suspect that the underlings won’t let this stand for too long should things start radically deteriorating, but I can’t deny that there is no precedent I can think of for me to read tea leaves from. The second is that things are really far, far more dire than I understand right now, and that at the end of the day the American people really will prefer to scrap everything they have for a promise without a plan.

    I really don’t think that will happen, but I’d be lying if I said part of that isn’t wishful thinking.Report

    • MFarmer in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Contrary to popular belief, most people don’t need a powerful, interventionist government. I have no way of knowing what the percentage would be, but I’d say, conservatively, that a good 75%, if there were no income tax, could use the extra money to create their own retirement and safety net through insurance and savings plans. And this 75%, while they might prefer to pay some taxes to a limited government to take on the responsibility of highways and infrastructure-type concerns, because this is the way it’s been done for so long, they could, if they had to, develope ways to build the infrastructure needed to travel and maintain communication and commerce. Government is not something other in this sense — if infrastructure can be developed and maintained through what we call government, it can be accomplished in cooperative and competitive ways through the private sector. Thinkers have suggested such ways before. I think it’s a mistake to assume that because government has taken over so many responibilities people are helpless and needy. All it will take is for people to begin thinking creatively and growing beyond the ingrained ideas of statism, and before you know it major changes are taking place. I think we’re getting close to a long period of innovation and creativity which moves away from government dependence.Report

      • North in reply to MFarmer says:

        It’d really help if libertarianism/libertarians could found and operate a “gulch” at some point. It would help the philosophy enormously I’d think if the principles could be put into action as a practical functioning matter on a modest scale; say a city or some such. I know vaguely that some attempts have been tried but I gather between governments pervasiveness and the unfortunate problem that organizing libertarians is harder than herding explosive cats it’s never actually been successfully implemented.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to North says:

          We keep trying… but the Californians move in.Report

        • MFarmer in reply to North says:

          It’s not “libertarians”, it’s people who can do this, if enough believed or were forced to do it by reality. Once people started realizing again what they can do with more freedom, they’d be amazed. Society has been trained under a paternalistic State, but if enough somehow get out of this mindset, good things can happen. Not just in America, but across the world.Report

          • North in reply to MFarmer says:

            That may be… but it’d be easier/faster if it could be adopted small scale by some true believers first to, ya know, show the way and prove the benefits. I’d assume those early adopters/innovators would be libertarians.Report

            • MFarmer in reply to North says:

              Give us Texas, Wyoming, Idaho, Alabama and the Dakotas for starters, but don’t take it personally when you hear all the laughter and champagne popping and we don’t let you in.

              But this is a diversion. You can’t isolate a state and expect the experiment to be meaningful — every blue state would try to undermine the experiment. It would be interesting if the isolated areas could be free of all US laws, so that we could freely trade with other countries to maximize division of labor. Hmm, let’s give it a try. The most interesting aspect to me would be to see how outsiders react to the absence of a welfare state, and in its place a socially cooperative private assistance effort. Who all would apply for citizenship in our State-less country with a minimal government?Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to MFarmer says:

                Mike, this point seems correct, but so does that one that you don’t address – that if the overwhelming majority really wanted to get rid of the things you say they do, why don’t they? Why is “He wants to take away your SS!” the biggest sure fire way to win in elections all over the nation?Report

              • North in reply to MFarmer says:

                Tsk Mike there was no diversion and no point scoring thus no need for the defensive crouch or pointless red state/blue stating (except I guess to advertise your gop-libertiarian bent). My original point remains and it remains unanswered.Report

        • Christopher Carr in reply to North says:

          The Free State Project’s chugging along I believe. About 5% of me is considering moving up there someday.Report

          • In my opinion, they demonstrated a fundamental unseriousness when they chose New Hampshire over Wyoming.Report

            • Christopher Carr in reply to Will Truman says:

              All else being equal, I’d prefer Wyoming to New Hampshire, but where am I gonna work in Wyoming? I’d be a park ranger, but the standard (non-bomb-shelter-building) libertarian is more cosmopolitan than I.Report

              • Entrepreneurship!

                Wyoming actually has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country, but is (if it’s anything like a neighboring state where I once worked) itching for white collar employers. College graduates would line up around the building for entry wages of $10/hr.

                Also Denver and SLC are both within relatively a couple hours driving distance from Cheyenne and Evanston respectively. Fort Collins and Park City are within commuting distance, if one is sincere.

                But yeah, they traded in their chance for greater freedom for cosmopolitanism and a desire not to live in between the Mississippi and the West Coast.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to Will Truman says:

                “But yeah, they traded in their chance for greater freedom for cosmopolitanism and a desire not to live in between the Mississippi and the West Coast.”

                wait… aren’t all those places between the Mississippi and the West Coast?Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Yeah, which is why they chose New Hampshire over Wyoming, despite the fact that the latter was a far superior candidate. New Hampshire was the third best option, at best, but unlike the top two, wasn’t in icky flyover country.Report

      • NoPublic in reply to MFarmer says:

        I’d say, conservatively, that a good 75%, if there were no income tax, could use the extra money to create their own retirement and safety net through insurance and savings plans.

        And I say it’s more like 20%. I can pull numbers out of my nether regions as well as you can. On the other hand the number of jobs in the “Fleecing people out of their savings” field would skyrocket so there’s that.Report

    • E.C. Gach in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Thanks for the kind words Kelly. I respect your view and wrote the above more so just to explore the unlikely possibility that “this time is different.”

      With regard to your first point, I think Boenher is very moderate/pragmatic, but also don’t believe that he has any real control over his party, which seems to be in a three way split between the Republican old guard, the “young guns,” and the Tea Party freshmen. But you may be right that he is a good indicator of where the center of the party is at.

      I buy it about dem candidates in the 80s, but by the same token would claim that as part of a whole it’s how all of these pieces come together at the same time. You might correct me on my history here, but were dems in the 80s calling the federal government, in so many words, an illegitimate enterprise?

      My fear is that the GOP will regain power, implement to the best of their ability their plutocratic agenda, and bring about massive unrest that puts the political system to an un-passable test. But on the point of voter distrust, you may be more on target than me:
      But having been too young in the early 90s, I have no idea how dire things seemed then as well, which leaves the possibility that early 90s level distrust coupled with early 2010s economic failure could lead to a different outcome. But your point here is valid.

      Finally, I hope you are correct that this is more melodramatic pessimism than prophetic fortune telling. I’ll be the first to admit how comfortable I’d be pursuing a robust middle (creative) class existence saving and consuming. But there’s one last bubble that threatens to pop: higher ed debt. That could be the final chip to fall, or it might not be and this is just another “business cycle” to get through.

      Thanks for the thorough rebut.Report

      • Tod Kelly in reply to E.C. Gach says:

        EC, I just got to this response tonight (this morning?), and didn’t want to let it pass without thanking you for the level of thought and detail in your reply. Good stuff.

        It appears we are on the same page – but with that whole glass half full/glass half empty thing going on.Report

  11. Kolohe says:

    I would argue that ‘low information voters’ and a partisan media are the rule rather than the exception in American political history, and the exceptions that exist are themselves arguable.Report