Couldn’t help but think of the League…

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Mike Schilling
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    Though one of his top examples of (c) is David Brooks, not exactly company I’d like to keep (and I don’t think any of the posters here do).Report

    • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Mike Schilling
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      Well, Brooks is basically trying to open up his readers minds to the virtues of a form of fascism, really. That we’re better off letting our cultural and economic superiors rule over us because they have our best interests in mind. And because they deserve to – they’re better than us!Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
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        Its not like Brooks is wrong on that score is it?

        (I know I know I’m sounding like a one trick pony)Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
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          I certainly don’t want the economic and cultural elite having unilateral power to make decisions over me. I mean, I like Applebee’s and all, but don’t want to eat at their salad bar everyday.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater
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            Heh. Murali may not realise this is an inside joke: Brooks famously said

            The magic is not felt by a lot of people. It’s not felt, obviously, by a lot of less educated people, downscale people. They just look at Obama, and they don’t see anything. And so, Obama’s problem is he doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who could go into an Applebee’s salad bar, and people think he fits in naturally there.

            Applebee’s doesn’t have a salad bar.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP
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              Applebee’s doesn’t have a salad bar.

              Heh. I didn’t know that. It just goes to show, tho, that Brooks fancies himself as someone who you’d meet at the Applebee’s salad , even tho you really think it’s not a natural fit. That he doesn’t belong.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater
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                Brooks would do well to confine himself to what he knows. Brooks would seem a bit more human if he would describe how he feels in some downscale establishment.

                Everyone gets all up in my doo-doo about telling personal stories. Those are the only kind worth telling, imho. How does Brooks know what I feel about Obama, or anyone else for that matter? How about asking someone? Maybe Brooks could get a Garth Brooks album and learn the lyrics to “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places”. That way, he could go into some little dive and put a dollar in the jukebox and everyone would have a good sing and a laff, him included. Because he’s not from Low Places. But he might do worse than to make some friends there.

                Truth is, he wasn’t a Bobo either. He’s a nice Jewish boy who fell in with the wrong crowd at National Review.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP
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                Maybe Brooks could get a Garth Brooks album and learn the lyrics to “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places”.

                Or a Mel Brooks album , so at least his mishegoss would be entertaining.

                “The salad bar at Applebee’s is amazing. It’s better than Saran Wrap. You got lettuce, you got mushrooms, you got arugula, and I don’t even know what arugula is! The only thing they don’t got? Harvard-educated shvartzers!”Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling
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                I love Gentiles. In fact, one of my favourite activities is Protestant shvartzer spotting.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP
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                Brooks would do well to confine himself to what he knows.

                That would leave him precious little to write about.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto
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                Everyone’s got a wonderful story to tell, if only someone else can get them to tell it. Most people are weirder and far more wonderful than they’ll ever let on. I get to see a lot of it as a consultant. Best thing about my job, really: I get to spend six months or a year somewhere, it’s the people, not the technology, which make my job interesting. I never tire of it.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
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          I know I know I’m sounding like a one trick pony

          I wouldn’t say a one trick pony. Instead, I think you’ve maintained the view even as I’ve challenged you on it, and continue to think that I’m the one holding a false belief.

          So let’s go back to the drawing board: explain again to me, in language a stoopid person could understand, why a technocratic elite is superior to representative democracy.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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            I’ll give it a whirl, why not (note: views presented are not necessarily held):

            Running a society is similar to providing medical care or provision of engineering work for a bridge. You shouldn’t want to say whether a person has cancer or a cold based on a vote but you’d want a qualified medical doctor making that diagnosis. You wouldn’t want people taking a vote on the tensile strength of steel cables… there are people who know exactly how much weight they can hold (and how much they can’t!) and whether people “feel” they should hold more has precious little to do with how things work in the real world.

            In the same way, a society at large will always vote for dessert instead of dinner, benefits instead of taxes, and otherwise always vote for the politician who promises them unicorns that poop krugerrands over the politician that says “there’s no such thing as unicorns that poop krugerrands”. For the most part, people can be left to their own devices when it comes to the vast majority of the choices that they have to make that directly affect themselves. They’re good judges at that. When it comes to society at large, however, this requires more insight, skill, and training than is provided by being a good spouse and parent (let alone a mediocre one!).

            I’d want a trained dentist performing my root canals rather than a democratic vote, I’d want a trained plumber snaking my pipes rather than a democratic vote, and I’d want a trained mechanic replacing my brakes rather than a democratic vote.

            In the same way, I’d want a trained technocrat making decisions about the future of society rather than a democratic vote.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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              Hmmm. I’m gonna think about the rest for a bit, but I do have this question: isn’t the purpose of representative democracy to elect people who will shape decision-making according to certain lines, or in the direction of certain goals, and then they employ the best possible mechanisms for achieving those goals (consistent with law, existing institutional structure, laws of political inertia, etc)?

              For example: given where we’re at right now, why think that a technocratic elite would have come up with a different solution to our healthcare problems than the PPACA?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                why think that a technocratic elite would have come up with a different solution to our healthcare problems than the PPACA?

                The great thing about a technocratic elite is that it’s easy to imagine them agreeing with oneself on certain policies that we, ourselves, are convinced would be the best one.

                Here, try it on:
                How easy is it for you to imagine a technocratic elite coming up with single payer and saying “every other First World Country is capable of doing something like this, we should be able to use their plans and tweak them somewhat to make them work for the USA”?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                A technocratic elite wouldn’t try to implement everything at once where some ideological zealot would try — and fail. Techne is really nothing more than fitting a solution to a problem. That sort of thing doesn’t happen all at once.

                Technocrats would compose experiments. There’s no imagining after the results of an experiment come in. The technocrats might argue over the root causes of the results they got, sure. But techne addresses a problem by defining it, rather like the tailor’s art. That requires skill.

                Ideology doesn’t require skill. It just yells a lot about Injustice and other nebulous terms. Quickest way to scare them off is to ask them to prove anything.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Jaybird
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                The great thing about a technocratic elite is that it’s easy to imagine them agreeing with oneself on certain policies that we, ourselves, are convinced would be the best one.

                Well …. exactly. So the question remains: why think they’d do a better job than the ACA? Because it would be comprised of people who wouldn’t agree with the ACA?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Stillwater
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                Well, “technocrat” is like “pragmatist” in that it can mean whatever we want it to mean, though at some point both are likely to pragmatically move us in a direction that some of us don’t want to go. It always comes down to “pragmatically doing what?”

                That being said, we see the “elite” part with regularity. The results are not always bad. Democratically, we’d be a lot more anti-trade than we are (dunno your views, would you consider that a good thing?), affirmative action would be dead, and gay marriage wouldn’t be on the rise (that was and is a top-down movement). Democratically, we support the death penalty whereas more elite-run countries abolished it over the objections of their populations.

                I do think that democracy is a real impediment to most of the straightforward solutions to our health care problems.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Will Truman
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                Democracy might be an impediment, sure. But so are the disparate and conflicting interests of insurance companies; PhRMA; front end providers; hospitals; employers; insurees (potential or actual); the poor; the elderly; etc etc.

                I guess what I’d like to see is how a technocratic elite would resolve all those conflicting interests in a politically palatable way. And of course, I should add at this point that excluding political palatability from the equation seems to me to grant unilateral power and protection to the TE itself, which introduces all sorts of potential and predictable problems, none of which are very … well … palatable.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Will Truman
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                Well, for my part, I see Death Panels hysteria, and the degree of accountability our elected representatives have towards not saying “no” to various treatments and such, as a pretty significant impediment. With populist democracy, it’s easier to whip up a hysteria at the expense of more sound choices. (This is one of the reasons why I fear we would do single-payer wrong, even while other countries have done it right.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman
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                Sure, there’s Glory for you. Humpty Dumpty can define pragmatic however he’d like. But pragmatic solutions are driven by cause and effect, isolating causal connections, the ruthless debullshittification of some fact-free ideological stance.

                Has the death penalty reduced murder? Should be easy enough to compose an experiment to prove this one way or the other.

                When the law merely said black people couldn’t be denied jobs on the basis of their skin tone, the bigots found ways around this restriction. Affirmative Action made the bigots hire black people. Good solution? Maybe not. The pragmatic results of desegregation alone had provably produced no results.

                I’m not sure democracy is the impediment here. The status quo is the impediment. Pragmatically, our health care statistics are awful. Until we get past sixty years of thinking health insurance comes from our employers, we won’t make any headway.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
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                They would choose other than the ACA because there are a number of parts to the ACA which are concessions to political reality. Some things are just unpalatable to people or to insurance companies or other special interests. i.e. much of what americans call pragmatism is not about finding solutions that work, but about finding anything approaching a solution that appeases democratic and political factors. While in Singapore, what is meant by technocratic pragmatism is finding solutions by consulting various economists and implementing them regardless of their popularity. The role of the politician is merely to sell the idea to the people. (Of course singapore is not a pure technocracy and so still involves itself in some democratic shenanigans like not legalising sodomy and gay marriage)

                So, one thing that would have been done is to eliminate the income tax deduction for employer provided health insurance. Another thing would have been medical malpractice reform so as to reduce the amount of defensive medicine that is practiced. And that is just the low hanging fruit. A technocracy would have tinkered with a HSA mandate (or at least opt out) in some states and if that managed to contain costs even more implement it nation wide. It would have made welfare transfers to lower income groups’ HSAs. It would have deregulated the insurance industry by allowing insurance companies to taylor policy according to actuarial information to a greater extent than currently allowed.

                Notice how my laundry list of reforms moves more or less in the opposite direction of the ACA on a number of points.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Murali
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                So, one thing that would have been done is to eliminate the income tax deduction for employer provided health insurance. Another thing would have been medical malpractice reform so as to reduce the amount of defensive medicine that is practiced. And that is just the low hanging fruit. A technocracy would have tinkered with a HSA mandate (or at least opt out) in some states and if that managed to contain costs even more implement it nation wide. It would have made welfare transfers to lower income groups’ HSAs. It would have deregulated the insurance industry by allowing insurance companies to taylor policy according to actuarial information to a greater extent than currently allowed.

                With some exceptions (particularly the last part, and I’m kind of shruggy of medmal reform), the technocratic solution is not far from my ideal solution.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
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                “We’ve done the research, and the key difference between the US and the other countries isn’t size or demographics, it’s the willingness of the upper-classes to contribute towards something whose direct effect is to help the lower classes. Arguments about how as a nation we’re all in this together, or how a healthy populace is an economic asset or a military one fall on deaf ears. That’s completely unlike what we see in Germany or even the UK”

                “Se we’ll need to budget for a substantial PR campaign.”

                “Or machine guns.”

                “I’ll have Dave run the numbers.”Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Mike Schilling
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                Chubby-but-funny Dave, or tall and handsome Dave? It makes a difference.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Will Truman
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                Tall, athletic Dave. The one nobody likes.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Will Truman
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                C’mon, man, open up, I think the cops saw me.

                Dave’s not here.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
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                This is modern leftism. This is the European Union, where the people vote on little. Brussels decides.

                It’s Obamacare, where unimagined discretion is given to the Sec of HHS.

                It’s the UN, which is completely a creature of elite governance.

                “Liberty” is an inoperative concept; material well-being is the only measure of a society’s success. Oh, and “fairness,” excellence being inherently non-egalitarian.

                And, on the whole, the rest of the world goes along with it. The EU and its monetary union are only a problem because they’re not working. Otherwise, the European sheep are quite content to sacrifice their liberty and sovereignty to Brussels and the Krauts.

                Your average Euroweinie would find the proposition “Give me liberty or give me death” preposterous. Here’s a list of our Jews, Mr. Hitler, to do with what you will. Just don’t hurt us.

                Here, Brussels, our sovereignty. Just keep the Euros coming.

                And of course, it’s not just Europe. Communism is on the ash heap because it couldn’t keep its promises, not because it abridged liberty. Russia’s current thugocracy under Putin is polling in the 65% range. In China, we’ll put up with forced abortions and killing our baby girls and Tienanmen as long as we keep those yuan and iPads flowing.

                Such a brave new world.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                And, on the whole, the rest of the world goes along with it.

                I think what you’re calling “going along with it” is what other people would call “politics”. Seems to me what you’re advocating here is less politics, less citizen participation.

                How does that square with your understanding of the constitution?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
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                Mr. Still, where have you been this past week? It’s all there.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Ahhh. Sure. Fair enough.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to Stillwater
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                I would actually disagree, here. The PPACA was a technocratic solution–a detailed, complex–in fact, almost incomprehensible–set of interconnected policies that tries to address the problems with our current healthcare policy in a the maximum politically “achievable” ways (e.g. buying off vested players, such as the insurance companies and physicians).

                I honestly believe that non-technocratic solutions with a clear set of core objectives end up with better solutions. If the current Democrats tried to create Social Security right now, they would have ended up with another 6,000 page bill that had a million exclusions, exceptions, and bones to the rent-seekers.

                And because of the complexity, it’s like a free gift to the political opposition: there are a million politically-exploitable nooks and crannies, and it’s easy to mischaracterize. 31% of Americans still believe that PPACA features Death Panels, and the case for a user mandate is so tangled and complex to explain to the non-wonk that the most formidable opposition has centered around that very (core) feature.

                Ultimately, I think we’ll end up with a single-payer, many-provider system of universal health care. And it’s more understandable. But the Democrat’s main political failure, in my estimation, is that they chickened out of the “values” conversation, and instead tried to design a complex system devoid of core principles. And the simpler the basic model of a policy is to explain, the more the political conversation can center on the values they embody.Report

              • True, this, McS. But at least half of us are comfortable with the morality of the anthill.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark
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                +like … 11!1!.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark
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                I would actually disagree, here. The PPACA was a technocratic solution–a detailed, complex–in fact, almost incomprehensible–set of interconnected policies that tries to address the problems with our current healthcare policy in a the maximum politically “achievable” ways (e.g. buying off vested players, such as the insurance companies and physicians).

                But the fact that it was constrained by politically achieveble ways of doing things means that PPACA was not the technocratic solution. The technocratic solution would have been the one that didn’t give a shit about buying off vested players and just implemented the solution that would in fact benefit the worst off. Given that the influence of the vested players is itself a product (if maybe unintended) of democracy, I don’t see how the parts of the policy that are a about buying off these guys as anything but a concession to democratic forces.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali
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                PPACA was a concession to undemocratic forces. All political action is a reflection of its underlying power structures. Markets, too, follow the same model. These are never democratic powers.

                When we were discussing Legal Realism and Legal Positivism, I wasn’t sure if my own definitions held water and was rootling around for some answers. I came across this remarkable summary of Robert Lee Hale (pdf). You may find it of interest.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to BlaiseP
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                It appears that I slipped up again. The legal formalists were the onese who thought the judges were interpreting a pre existing law while the realists were the ones saying that judicial activity was not some poliy neutral thing, but quite politically motivated.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP
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                Your point remains valid, either way. Oliver Wendell Holmes, the great tent pole of Legal Realism, famously said the law was predictive: he who breaches a contract he signed can predict the consequences. Bad men, he observed, are only constrained by the odds of that prophecy coming true.

                As with most philosophies, legal realism, especially in the American tradition, seems to be a reaction to the high-minded abstractions of their forebears who believed law could rise above politics. Law ought to rise above politics, I’ll grant you, that’s where the legal positivists are on the right track. But American law and jurisprudence has no good starting point, certainly not the Constitution. The famous cases Brother Likko gives us show how it arose in fact.

                Law is awkward in a genuine democracy. It’s terribly efficient in a tyranny. PPACA, as I’ve said before, is Bismarck Brand Sausage, including disgusting political concessions like the Cornhusker Kickback. PPACA’s enemies are right to hate how it was made. If they also hate the people who made it, they lacked the power to prevent PPACA’s passage. Elections have consequences: in our society, our laws are made by elected officials. SCOTUS appointments are hugely political. Would that the people who hate PPACA had the decency to decry Justice Scalia’s intemperate politicking from the bench.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
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                Murali,

                But the fact that it was constrained by politically achieveble ways of doing things means that PPACA was not the technocratic solution.

                But what constitutes “the technocratic solution”? That was effectively the issue JB was pointing out upthread: that a technocratic solution is in danger of reducing to the preferred ideological solution of the person advocating for it. A libertarian will be inclined to think the technocratic solution to health care will be to minimize governmental penetration into markets; a liberal will think that the techoncraric solution is straight ahead single payer; a conservative … well I don’t know what they’d advocate since all they do is bitch about what’s wrong without offering any solutions.

                The technocratic solution would have been the one that didn’t give a shit about buying off vested players and just implemented the solution that would in fact benefit the worst off.

                I’m not at all sure about that. “Buying off” implies something nasty, and illicit, but the reality is that people with a vested interest in certain states of affairs will resist a unilateral change which undermines their perhaps privileged, perhaps unjustified place in society. That’s politics. And that’s how politics tracks power: if PhRMA had the power to torpedo HCR in utero, which they did, then it’s not unreasonable to think that making a concession to those interests isn’t unjust or illicit, but part of how government ought to conduct it’s business.

                Why would PhRMA, or the AMA, or citizens generally, support a TE that was in principle entirely dismissive of their specific interests? That seems paradoxical to me.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Snarky McSnarkSnark
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                If the current Democrats tried to create Social Security right now, they would have ended up with another 6,000 page bill that had a million exclusions, exceptions, and bones to the rent-seekers.

                You can download 42 USC Chapter 7 as a plain text file here. I opened it up in OpenOffice.org Writer using the default settings, and it ran to 5339 pages.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Brandon Berg
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                I’m reluctant to admit this, BB, but this comment gets a full point. Maybe even two.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Stillwater
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                The best zingers are deadpan zingers.

                That said, Snarky’s basically correct. The SSA in its current form is very much a product of the modern legislative process.

                Though I’m not sure that the point he was trying to make isn’t completely backwards. We get this kind of legislation because of the need to compromise, pander, etc. A technocratic elite wouldn’t need to bother with that and would be able to create much simpler legislation.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Stillwater
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                You know what other government was able to find efficient solutions to problems?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Stillwater
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                A technocrat wouldn’t need legislation. He’d be given mandate to deal with an issue, rather like an officer is given an objective by his commanders. He might be given rules of engagement but the tactics are left for him to work out with his own XO and NCOs.

                Our government isn’t run like the military or a technocracy. A technocracy wouldn’t run on the basis of adherence to law but to ongoing status reports: have these objectives been met and if not, why not. An objective can’t be legislated.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Stillwater
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                isn’t the purpose of representative democracy to elect people who will shape decision-making according to certain lines, or in the direction of certain goals, and then they employ the best possible mechanisms for achieving those goals

                Representative democracy does very poorly with the finding the best means to achieve the goals. One of the problems it runs into is that people not only have goals that they want policy to aim at within particular constraints, they often have very specific (and wrong) ideas about how to go about achieveing those goals. Restructuring democracy into something where representatives have far less say about the means to achieve democratically decided ends would end up improving the quality of legislation.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali
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                You vastly underestimate the power of undemocratic forces to undermine the will of the people. Consent is manufactured every day. Though I don’t have much faith in mankind, this I do know about our species: there is considerable wisdom in the crowd, provided it’s shown the facts and not whipped up by modern day Robespierres with frightening tales of how PPACA is tantamount to 9/11.

                Even the wise cannot see all ends, said Tolkien. The vastly destructive social experiments during the 20th century in the Soviet Union and China could not have been undertaken without tyrannous regimes to implement them. Along with the Libertarians hereabouts, I will genially rebut any assertions about the supremacy of the technocrat over the democrat. I am old enough to remember that the Soviet Union reached earth orbit first, with both satellites and men. Where is the USSR today? The Red Army ushanka can be obtained in any flea market.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to BlaiseP
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                Do special and entrenched inerests that operate through big lobbies count as undemocratic?

                The results of public choice theory suggest that the heavy influence of special interests is the very product of democratic institutional structures and incentives.

                Though I don’t have much faith in mankind, this I do know about our species: there is considerable wisdom in the crowd, provided it’s shown the facts and not whipped up by modern day Robespierres with frightening tales of how PPACA is tantamount to 9/11

                The problem is that confronted with a Robespierre and the facts, crowds will prefer the Robespierre to the facts almost every single time. Discourse failure is a predictable outcome because intuitive theories where there are clear villains to blame are easier to understand and less taxing on the mind to accept than the unvarnished facts. Since each individual voter doesnt make any significant difference by himself, he gains no benefit by believing in the truth as his true belief has negligible effect on policy. With negligible benefits and great personal cost to finding the truth, it is no surprise when the truth suffers in public deliberation. The truth in this case is a positive externality.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Murali
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                The first lobbyist, William Hull, represented the Virginia veterans of the Revolutionary War in their cause for more compensation. We’re pretty sure President Grant invented the term, used of the guys who camped out in the lobby of the Willard Hotel trying to get an audience at the White House.

                Every interest is special. The odds of that interest gaining traction varies with its political power. If that interest is too diffuse, it cannot gain traction: it must have a Schwerpunkt. Thus the poor are so ill-served: they lack the resources and the focus to achieve their ends.

                Political donations have corrupted our republican democracy. I remain a small R republican: good laws can only be made at a remove from the mobs and the punters. To that end, we elect our Congresscritters for fixed terms, insulating them from the consequences of one difficult vote. Though one individual voter has negligible effect on policy, he increments the numerator of the fraction with his vote, however large the denominator might be. A republic reduces the denominator to a manageable size, that one legislator’s vote might be of more consequence.

                The Robespierres of this wicked world usually come to a bad end. They are against many things. What they are for by way of replacement of those bad things is always shrouded in aphorisms, clichés, appeals to vanity and many another such fallacy of logic. I have quoted it here before, but Gustave Le Bon’s little book The Crowd remains as valid today as ever. If the examples given are dated, other, more modern examples are readily available.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
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                The results of public choice theory suggest that the heavy influence of special interests is the very product of democratic institutional structures and incentives.

                What you cite here isn’t an analysis of how special interests influence policy, it’s a description of it. It would become an analysis only if, and when, a conceptual and causal link can be traced from democratic forms of to special interest influence which wouldn’t have obtained in a different form of government. I don’t think that can be done. Special interests aren’t special: they’re just the interests people have. And the motivation of people with interests to in fact influence government is older than democracy. In fact, the phenomenon of idiosyncratic special interests determining policy was what democracy was created to minimize.Report

              • Avatar Chris in reply to BlaiseP
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                You vastly underestimate the power of undemocratic forces to undermine the will of the people. Consent is manufactured every day.

                Yes! Or even more precisely, not to undermine, but to determine the will of the people.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Murali
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                Representative democracy does very poorly with the finding the best means to achieve the goals.

                I think that begs all the important questions, actually. The term “does poorly” is a relative measure, yes? So the question is: representative democracy does very poorly relative to … what? An idealized conception of government? Which one of the many idealized conceptions are we comparing actual reality to? Conservatopia? Libertopia? Liberaltopia? How do we decide which one of those models we ought to implement?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Stillwater
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                So the question is: representative democracy does very poorly relative to … what?

                Technocracy, in this case.

                Which, may I point out, does not overlap overly much with Libertopia.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                Oh, a pamphlet worth reading is by Hans-Hermann Hoppe.

                “Democracy: The God That Failed” is googleable and it’ll get your blood up. It’s an interesting argument. I imagine that Murali will like it more than either of us, though.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                That’s a matter of definition. Libertopia is about innovation, which seems congruent with Technocracy. Bound as we are to cause and effect, we Liberals are less-prone to perpetuate the hoary old precepts of the Conservatives or the Destroy the Village to Save It of the Libertarians.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                (Oh, and the HHH stuff wanders around into some really offensive territory from time to time. Be warned. I neither condone nor endorse what he says, for the record. I was just reminded of having read it by this conversation.)Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Oh good lord, it’s that dreary old crank Hoppe again. Democracy never set itself up as a god nor has it failed. Read the news, the people of Hong Kong are marching in the streets, angry at the tyranny of the People’s Republic. Democracy will always spring up like a perennial weed: without the consent of the people, all government must perish but without good government the people will perish.

                If we must look for false prophets bringing down commandments from Sinai, Ludwig von Mises is that prophet and Libertarianism is the god that failed. Nobody will take your religion seriously if such as Lew Rockwell and Hans Hoppe are your prophets.Report

              • Avatar Snarky McSnarksnark in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                So the question is: representative democracy does very poorly relative to … what?

                Technocracy, in this case.

                The whole point of democracy was never that it was more efficient or more wise. The point was, we could throw the bums out.

                In democracy we can prevent the government from getting too far from the culture, or too despotic. A technocrat could be a Roosevelt, or could be a Hitler.

                Plato’s proposed that a “benevolent dictator” is the superior form of government. That is all well and good, but what if you dictator is not benevolent? A similar problem exists with the technocrat. Technocracy uninformed by values is, to me,
                an uninviting prospect.

                Democracy is just a means to limit despotism. In so doing, it probably makes governing quite a bit harder. That’s a trade-off I gladly live with.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                Technocracy is informed by outcomes. If it seems to lack values, the outcomes speak for themselves. I would argue technocracy is guided by values: they may not be the ones we like, but Hobbes once said “it is one thing to desire, another to be in capacity fit for what we desire.” If the technocrat seems ruthless, he is at least capable.

                The first few decades of Saddam Hussein featured marvellous improvements in the lives of ordinary Iraqis. He electrified the country, raised literacy and sanitation levels, won a big UNESCO award for children’s literacy, oh he turned Iraq into a middle class country. The rest of the Middle East was a pest hole but not Iraq. Iran prospered under the Shah, also a technocrat. Turkey was guided by technocrats. Rwanda’s turning into an interesting little exception to the rest of its neighbours, also run by technocrats.

                The problem with democracy arise from how it sorts out political forces. We like our republican forms because, as you say, we can throw out the bums, but the Bum Replacement strategy usually results in a new crop of bums, often worse than the former bums.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                The advantage of using elections as Bum Replacement Strategy is that the Bums won’t and don’t need to hold on to power for dear life. Being a bum that’s thrown out doesn’t necessarily preclude you or your team coming back into power, and even if it does, leads to a decent retirement and/or follow on career.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                What makes it a democracy (or republic) is that the people in power go willingly when they lose. Anyone who gets excited after the first election is just being foolish.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
                Ignored
                says:

                I have outlined a few of the disadvantages of using elections as Bum Replacement Strategy, chief among them Mr. Darwin’s laws of evolution. The bums rise to the top like turds in a punch bowl. When our only meaningful choices are Red Bum and Blue Bum, you may be sure of one thing, a bum will get elected. Mr. Hobbes’ bit about In Capacity Fit still stands. Insofar as all we seem to elect are bums, we may only expect more of same. Sic Semper Bummis.

                But your point about the bums returning in alternate forms, usually lobbyists and captains of industry and members of boards still stands.Report

        • Avatar Mike Schilling in reply to Murali
          Ignored
          says:

          On their having anyone’s interests in mind beyond their own personal ones, and those narrowly and short-sightedly defined — I’d say he’s dead wrong.Report

  2. Avatar Will H.
    Ignored
    says:

    Agreed.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird
    Ignored
    says:

    I read “William Hull” and it misdirected me to the entry under “William Gull” and I had a great post discussing the overlap between lobbying and kidney removal but, sadly, they’re not the same guy.Report

    • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
      Ignored
      says:

      A brief history of lobbying

      1850s: Gunmaker Samuel Colt, seeking to extend a patent, has lobbyists pass out pistols as gifts to lawmakers and to one member’s 12-year-old son.

      1875: Sam Ward, “King of the Lobby,” testifies to Congress after admitting bribery: “I do not say I am proud—but I am not ashamed—of the occupation.” Report

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