Foreign Policy

When and Why One Finds Actual Differences in Behavior Between Governing Parties

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Economist Bryan Caplan has some interesting thoughts, starting with a depressing and probably accurate observation about why bad government programs have to be strangled before they occupy the crib:

If history is any guide, all Democrats need to do to ensure permanent bipartisan support for Obamacare is pass it….

Notice: In other areas, especially foreign policy, things don't work this way.  Bush II invaded Iraq and winked at torture; Gore probably wouldn't have.  Clinton invaded Haiti; Bush I probably wouldn't have….

….politicians often have some political slack—a range of electorally safe options….Slack exists insofar as the median voter is roughly indifferent……Politicians can safely do A instead of B as long as voters are—out of apathy or deference—indifferent between them.

OK, so what's the difference between health policy and foreign policy?  For health policy, the median voter has fairly specific preferences.  He knows he likes giving free medicine to the American elderly, he knows he hates rationing, and he knows he doesn't want to listen to fiscal Cassandras.  Hence, the political juggernaut that is Medicare.  For foreign policy, in contrast, the median voter has a big range of indifference.  If the President says we need to invade Iraq, he'll go along with it for a couple years at least; if the President says Iraq isn't a problem, the median voter will go along with that, too.

Bottom line: Libertarians should fear government-run health care no matter who's in charge.  For liberals, however, it doesn't make much difference.  As long as public opinion is firmly on your side, it doesn't matter who runs the government….

That matter of public opinion and its shaping is why the endless work of advocating and arguing in the public square (or the public Internet) for one's political values, whether or not its effects can be quickly quantified, is so important.

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  1. Sorry for the threadjack…

    Cops caught on dashboard cam plotting to frame a motorist who was rear-ended by the cops.

    Story here: http://www.abc-7.com/Global/story.asp?S=10812563

    Video here: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/32202886#32202886

  2. “That matter of public opinion and its shaping is why the endless work of advocating and arguing in the public square (or the public Internet) for one’s political values, whether or not its effects can be quickly quantified, is so important.”

    And ultimately doomed to fail, as in the end, people will vote themselves raises.

  3. Sorry for continuing the thread jack with a totally OT post, but this was just too dumb not to share… Anyway, it’s been hot here in the Pacific Northwest, like all-time record hot, the last few days (108 in Corvallis yesterday is the hottest temperature I’ve ever experienced in my life) so it is the primary topic of discussion right now and a local radio station was just asking people to call in with ideas for trying to escape the heat. Well, this guy calls in and says that he and his roommate open the fridge and freezer in their apartment and put a fan in front of it. . .

    Sometimes a little understanding of physics, conservation of energy and efficiency could go a long way.

  4. Tell the guys they need to climb in and shut the door.

  5. “why bad government programs have to be strangled before they occupy the crib”

    The same applies to Democrats. Let’s abort those fuckers before they reach the crib.

  6. Great heads think alike

  7. Wow, its amazing how the only four crooked cops in the department happened to arrive on that scene.

  8. If history is any guide, all Democrats need to do to ensure permanent bipartisan support for Obamacare is pass it….

    Notice: In other areas, especially foreign policy, things don’t work this way. Bush II invaded Iraq and winked at torture; Gore probably wouldn’t have.

    Actually, foreign policy does work this way to some extent. Obama wouldn’t have invaded Iraq, but he didn’t pull out the moment he became president. He is slowly pulling out along pretty much the timeline that Bush would have done.

    Still, the point that it is a lot harder to kill a government program than it is to prevent it from starting is a good one. If we did switch to socialized medicine, once the system inevitably started providing poor service, most people would want to fix it by spending more money as opposed to ending the program.

  9. And here you see first-hand (or second if your first is otherwise occupied) the utter, abysmal, life-destroying evil of slack.

  10. That matter of public opinion and its shaping is why the endless work of advocating and arguing in the public square (or the public Internet) for one’s political values, whether or not its effects can be quickly quantified, is so important.

    Objection: assuming the conclusion. How do you know that advocacy doesn’t have the opposite effect of arousing opposition and/or making the opposing view look more attractive?

  11. “Bush II invaded Iraq and winked at torture; Gore probably wouldn’t have”

    Bullshit, Gore was a huge hawk on Iraq until it became unpopular, even accusing Bush Sr. of ignoring Saddams terrorist ties.

  12. That matter of public opinion and its shaping is why the endless work of advocating and arguing in the public square (or the public Internet) for one’s political values, whether or not its effects can be quickly quantified, is so important.

    Translation: Even if libertarianism is about as popular as vaginal warts, send contributions to keep reason afloat.

  13. Willi…I mean, Lefiti, your new handle isn’t fooling anyone.

  14. Epi,
    That is not cool. To prove I am not Lefiti I will post pics of me blowing myself, this is something Lefiti would never do.

  15. wow, that little bit of logic made me sad.

  16. If you can blow yourself then you deserve to be called whatever you like.

  17. If history is any guide, all Democrats need to do to ensure permanent bipartisan support for Obamacare is pass it….

    No Child Left Behind.

    Who cares if it sucked? Liberals didn’t even care if it sucked. It was only a matter of time before they’d get control of it. And then…

  18. As long as public opinion is firmly on your side, it doesn’t matter who runs the government….

    A lot of truth in Caplan’s analysis, except he should have concluded, “As long as public lack of opinion is firmly on your side, it doesn’t matter who runs the government.”

  19. the utter, abysmal, life-destroying evil of slack.

    This feels like a Sub-Genius reference.

    Willi…I mean, Lefiti, your new handle isn’t fooling anyone.

    Actually, Edw-…concerned obser-…William is kinda like genital warts. He keeps recurring and he looks a little different superficially every time.

  20. i recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.The post from http://www.watchmvp.com/Raymond-Weil.html Raymond Weil watches Company.

  21. wujing > William

  22. That matter of public opinion and its shaping is why the endless work of advocating and arguing in the public square (or the public Internet) for one’s political values, whether or not its effects can be quickly quantified, is so important.

    This is also why government run education is the first step in the slow march to tyranny.

  23. wujing > William

    Agreed. wujing’s “aw-shucks” style of spamming is almost charming.

  24. It really pisses me off when Republicans praise medicare. The system is unsustainable, but politicians can’t mention it because old people vote. I had hoped the blue dogs would fall in line with Pelosi and be voted out in 2010. But if we wind up with a government plan, Doherty’s right, we’ll never escape it.

  25. Complete last line FTA: “As long as public opinion is firmly on your side, it doesn’t matter who runs the government – venality and stupidity notwithstanding.”

    Isn’t that why it’s called Democrazy?

  26. SugarFree | July 30, 2009, 4:47am | #

    Good grief. Long night at the grotto or just time to make the donuts?

  27. Insomnia. I got up at 12:48am. 2.5 hours of sleep. Somehow, I am at work.

  28. Ever seen Cashback? Relatively interesting movie about an insomniac. Kinda sexy in a creepy 12-year-old’s sci-fi dream sort of way too.

  29. Yeah, I liked it. The ability to stop time has been my number one power fantasy since I was kid. Did you ever read The Fermata by Nicholson Baker? Very similar and contains pornographic vignettes about “Marian the Librarian.” Hubba-hubba.

  30. You know what we need? Disposable political parties.

  31. What kind of disposable? The “use the pre-paid phone until too many random hook-up hos know the number” sort of disposable or the “flushable medicated wipes” sort of disposable?

  32. The latter kind.

  33. The latter kind.

    Good. I already got enough bitches hassling me as is.

  34. Nope, but now I’ve added The Fermata to my book list right under Banks’s Culture series. (The Road and Opening Atlantis have been bumped down.)

  35. Start with The Player of Games, HoneyBunny.

    And though Baker has a well-respected literary career, everything else pales before Fermata.

  36. So skip Consider Phlebas?

  37. I started with Consider Phlebas and have escaped serious injury.

  38. So it’s pretty much that both the left and right are; ineffective, moronic, self-serving, and you can add as you like.

    Even after reading the article it still doesn’t explain the schoolyard mentality between the two that seems to be so pervasive these days. I remember reading something along the lines of never in history has so many said so little.

  39. Don’t skip it. It all depends on your tolerance level for space opera, which the whole Culture series is, but CP is a bit aliens and laser guns for some people. Start with CP if you like, but if you don’t like it, give POG a try before abandoning the whole series.

    And the Culture series is not really a series, they are not a cycle or a sequence so they can be read in any order you like. Banks goes out of his way to make each of them focus on a different aspect of The Culture.

    I started with CP as well, but I had been reading hardcore literary SF for 15 years at that point.

  40. One of the nice things about the Culture books is that they are all pretty much independent of each other, although the later ones assume a little more familiarity with the Culture than the earlier ones.

    BTW, was I pissed when I learned recently that somebody is camping on the SpecialCircumstances.com website and wants mucho bucks for it.

  41. Did any book thread here ever mention Pillars of the Earth? Pop lit, I know, but probably the fondest book-reading memory of my semi-youth. I read it again a couple years ago and it held up. The sequel, not so much.

    Validate my tastes, oh mighty H&R gallery!

  42. Pillars of the Earth

    I liked it, specially the wool trading stuff.

  43. I’m reading “The Prince of Tides.”
    Don’t judge me.

  44. I hope Balko blogs ChicagoTom’s first post threadjack.

  45. My presence here dramatically increases the number of responses and gives the post a better chance of making it into the top five for the week.

  46. “I’m reading “The Prince of Tides.”
    Don’t judge me.”

    I’m not going to. It was on a short list of books we had a choice of reading in one of my college classes. Because of the bad things I heard about the movie, I first tried to read “A Confederacy of Dunces”. After 50 pages I was thinking more of disemboweling Ignatius J. Reilly, wrapping his guts around a tree, and pushing him off a cliff, so for my own mental sanity I switched to reading “The Prince of Tides,” which improved my mental state greatly

  47. Funny, zero. I find myself wanting to do the same thing to Tom Wingo.

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