Politics

In Praise of Divided Government

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The Chicago Tribune's Steve Chapman gives a cheer for divided government:

A revival of fiscal discipline is just one of the potential benefits of breaking up the Republican monopoly in Washington. Maybe the new order will make Republicans truer to their principles, and maybe it will make Democrats more responsible. Or maybe it will just keep either from doing their worst. In any case, we will probably rediscover an old truth: That government is best which unites least.

Whole thing here.

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  1. I suspect that we’ll see far more spending since we’ll need to fund the military (in a time of war) as well seeing enhanced spending on old and new domestic programs. Stagflation here we come!

  2. The new order will not make Republicans “truer to their [limited government] purpose”, because they never lost their limited government purpose; in a libertarian sense they never had a limited government purpose.

    When Republicans in the Carter and Clinton years said things like “big government is bad” the subtext, hidden to us but *not* to their voters, was “big Democrat government is bad, but big Republican government would be awesome.”

    This is the distinction between Medicare (bad) and the Prescription Drug Benefit (good), between Democrat pork (bad) and Republican pork (good).

    The Republican party hasn’t budged one inch in their true purpose (getting Republicans elected); it only seems like they have if you naively assume that they base their platform on policy rather than politics.

  3. Gridlock is underrated.

  4. “Maybe the new order will make Republicans truer to their principles, and maybe it will make Democrats more responsible.”

    Ooh, look at me, I’m “objective” and “even-handed!” A pox on both their houses! Two sides of the same coin! The Republicand and Democrats are BOTH responsible for the budgets of the past five years.

    Maybe the party that implemented Pay-Go will learn some responsibility. Keep it up, fella, and you just might get that Washington Post gig yet.

  5. Just wondering: when you talk about “big government”, you mean “big” as compared to what? How do you measure the “amount” of government?

  6. The Republicand and Democrats are BOTH responsible for the budgets of the past five years.

    I’d mock with you, Joe, but if you look back at what’s happened in the last three decades whenever we’ve had a Republican president and a Democratic Congress, the Democrats haven’t covered themselves in fiscal glory.

    I could be wrong about this bunch, and I’d like to be…but then, I didn’t vote Democratic because spending was my top priority.

  7. Dan T,

    In comparison to 1789. 😉

  8. Eric the .5b,

    Admittedly, the Democratic Party of the 70s and 80s was no great shakes when it came to fiscal responsibility.

    That storyline is at last 15 years out of date.

  9. Don’t forget early 90s, joe.

    That storyline is at last 15 years out of date.

    If and when the Democrats, oh, submit a budget that’s at least balanced, I’ll be willing to grant that. Until then, I await evidence that they’re not the same sort of spendthrifts who (excluding the term of one Republican Congress and one Democratic president) have consistently propelled the storyline for the last several decades.

  10. It is encouraging that many advocates of limited government have found the benefit of divided government. Milton Friedman over the last several years has promoted divided government, and even the head of the Governmen Accoutability Office has seen divided government as the only hope for fiscal restraint.

    Keeping the government divided after 2008 will be a challenge. We should try to get a few Libertarians into Congress to make sure neither party has a majority.

  11. Promoting fiscal discipline by electing a Democratic Congress is like promoting abstinence by putting a chastity belt on a hooker in a biker bar: it might happen, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

  12. Promoting fiscal discipline by electing a Democratic Congress is like promoting abstinence by putting a chastity belt on a hooker in a biker bar: it might happen, but it won’t be for lack of trying.

    It’s more like interrupting the orgy in the bar by sending in a rival gang of thugs.

  13. I’m amazed so many otherwise thoughtful observers, even including Milton Friedman, would conclude so much from the apparent correlation (and then only in fedgov; not so when you look at the states) between party-divided or party-united gov’t and spending. I really think you have to look at the major spending programs, and then you’ll see secular trends that had nothing to do with which party controlled what.

    For example, the drug benefit was something for which pressure had been building since the demise of Hillarycare. Do you really think it would’ve been any cheaper, or delayed any longer, or that Bush Jr. would’ve vetoed it, had it been passed by a Democratic majority Congress? That time bomb just happened to go off on the Republicans’ watch.

    Also, the federal on-budget budget had gone into surplus — a highly unstable situation which could’ve been met with by tax cuts or spending increases. We happened to get both out of this swing of the pendulum.

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