The Idea Is the Problem

How the Democrats misjudged the American people


Generally speaking, would you favor smaller government with fewer services or larger government with more services?

Fifty-eight percent of those polled by The Washington Post recently claimed they preferred smaller government with fewer services, with only 38 percent favoring a larger government with more services (and, yes, it is a terrific struggle not to place ironic quotations marks around the word "services").

This is the highest number for the "smaller government" category since 2002. And a full year into President Barack Obama's term, most polls and state elections tell us that the electorate is walking—maybe sprinting?—back from the progressive economic policies that now dominate Washington.

Some Democrats believed grousing about (the fully imagined) wild and unregulated days of the Bush years would be sufficient to pass sweeping top-down economic controls. Yet for all the presidential election-time happy talk, Americans have this sturdy historical aversion to "fundamental" reorganizations of their society.

Still other Democrats convinced themselves that surging opposition to their big plans was fabricated, paid for by insurance companies or oil companies or some other reprehensible profit-motivated boogeyman they'd conjured up. They overestimated their mandate and underestimated the electorate.

Many more Democrats continue to convince themselves that the party's problem is flawed candidates or poorly communicated messages, as White House spokesman Robert Gibbs conceded this week—because, presumably, the idea of socializing medicine is too nuanced and intellectually rigorous for the average voter to digest.

Hardly. The predicament Democrats face is the opposite. Too many voters appreciate exactly what health care legislation entails.

This is why Congress conducts clandestine negotiations on legislation and trashes promises of transparency. This is why leading Democrats have embraced procedural tricks and senatorial bribery—and now the possibility of "reconciliation"—so they can adjust health care reform and pass it with a 51-vote majority. You're gonna get it whether you want it or not.

That's what happens when these Democrats lose a debate. According to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, only 33 percent of the public believes the health reform effort is a "good" idea, whereas 46 percent considers it a "bad" idea—with 55 percent disapproving of Obama on health care.

What's most striking about this poll is that opposition to Obama's plan has increased 20 percentage points since April—coinciding, not surprisingly, with the president's big push to convince us that it's needed. The more people learn, apparently, the less they like.

Now, I am under no grand illusions about democracy. The electorate can be mercurial and irrational—as nearly every election proves. Nor do I believe any ethical politician should abandon his core values simply because polls tell him it would be expedient.

I say, keep fighting, Mr. President. Those of us who believe in capitalism need you.

But the fact is we have one party controlling both houses of Congress—with historically impressive margins. We have an opposition political party Americans have lost confidence in. We have endured a frightening downturn that allowed the far left to advance a menu of stunning regulatory intrusions that normally would be non-starters.

Finally, we have a charismatic and articulate president who, armed with a nearly national landslide, was given the stage to make his pitch on health care reform.

If, with all that, the progressives cannot convince voters that the central cause of their movement is necessary, then it is not a messaging problem or a leadership problem, and it is not a Republican problem; it is an idea problem—a terrible idea problem.

David Harsanyi is a columnist at The Denver Post and the author of Nanny State. Visit his Web site at www.DavidHarsanyi.com.


NEXT: Now That Coakley's Croaked, Just What Kind of Senator is Scott Brown Likely to be?

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  1. Caption Contest!

    “When I found out people don’t want free stuff, I shat myself with surprise, like this…”

    1. This pic would have been better, but the last time I linked to it, somebody called me a racist. I miss those post-ironic days.

    2. Thank you. You made my day – I even heard his ridiculous “mister to cool for the room” voice in my head when I read it

  2. How the Democrats misjudged the American people.

    The scorpion responds to the frog as both were drowning: Because that is what I do.”

    Because that is what the Dems do.

  3. Finally, we have a charismatic and articulate president who, armed with a nearly national landslide, was given the stage to make his pitch on health care reform.

    Well, the problem is that Americans are stupid, they believe in creationism, they should have all legislation rammed down their throat – Bill Maher told me so.

  4. The Dems didn’t “misjudge” the people, because they don’t CARE what the people think. They just want to push through their socialist agenda.

    1. Agreed. It’s silly to pretend like their agenda ever had anything to do with what the American people wanted.

    2. The correct term is “misunderjudged”.

  5. Much like comments from the other day, the idea that the majority of the American people favor “less government” is a myth. It’s one of the insidious aspects of public opinion polling that certain questions get certain answers. It’s easy enough to say “I support smaller government”, but when asked and when voting, if people support increases in funding for every public program imaginable, then it’s kind of a moot point.

    That said, I do agree with David that once people learn more about these things they realize how bad ideas they are, and politicians constantly underestimate people’s ability to understand what they’re doing. Possibly because the politicians themselves don’t seem to have a clue most of the time.

    1. It’s easy enough to say “I support smaller government”, but when asked and when voting, if people support increases in funding for every public program imaginable, then it’s kind of a moot point.

      People are always going to support more of anything if they think that “someone else” is going to pay for it. THAT’S what’s truly insidious.

      I guarantee you that if people got asked if they wanted more funding for stuff AND they would have to pay more taxes, the answers would be a lot different, but the questions never get asked that way.

      1. “People are always going to support more of anything if they think that “someone else” is going to pay for it. THAT’S what’s truly insidious.”


        1. And here, at the bottom, is the root of evil ? at least if my neighbor knocked down my door, pointed a gun at me and demanded money that I’ve worked my ass off for, there would be some honesty in the action. Instead, they have the government do the same for them and call it progressive

      2. Exactly! The question shouldn’t be “would you like bigger government and more services?” it should be “would you like to pay higher taxes for more services that mainly benefit other people?” Let’s be honest for a change…

      3. I think either Steven Levitt or Malcolm Gladwell reports an experiment where that question is asked, framed as: US$100 dropped out of the sky into the government’s lap; which of some list of options (including a tax cut) do you want it spent on.

    2. There seems to be two rather contradictory lines of thinking around here. On the one hand, we always hear how the American people are a bunch of lazy, ignorant, communist who are too obsessed with the government tit to object to big government. On the other hand we hear about how both parties are nothing but mirror big government loving images of each other. Since we don’t actually live in a communist state or even a true socialist one, it is doubtful that both of those things could be true. Yet they both get repeated as gospel.

      Isn’t it more likely that the second statement is true. That both parties love big government and the few politicians who don’t bullied and cowed by left leaning media into pretending they do. Meanwhile a large silent majority really don’t want the government service that are being foisted upon them but can do nothing about it since they are completely ignored by our ruling classes.

      1. Politicians want to do things; they make campaign promises to do things; they seek and receive donations to do things; and when elected do some of those things as well as a whole set of other things that pop into their heads as time goes by.

        Politicians don’t seek office to undo things, and the population does not vote for politicians that promise to undo things.

        1. I disagree. I think people want to vote for someone who will undo things. They just don’t get the option. When was the last time you could actually vote for someone who wanted to undo things? And Libertarian Party Candidates don’t count since they are a fringe party.

          If what you were saying were true, no way would a flawed candidate like Ron Paul done as well as he did in 2008. The fact that someone as little known as Paul did so well, says how much pent up demand there is for a candidate who promises to undo things.

          1. Define success.

            Ron Paul took in alot of donations (including some of my money), but he had no discernable impact on the 2008 general election that I can tell.

            1. His effect wasn’t on who won the presidency. It was obvious that the democrats could nominate anyone at all, and the republicans would lose.

              Ron Paul’s effect was to put things back on the agenda that had been given up for lost almost a hundred years ago. Without him, Bernanke wouldn’t be having any trouble at all expanding the Fed’s powers in the wake of their latest debacle.


              1. Ron Paul is the “fringe” not the Libertarian party.

        2. The only two candidates I can think of who actually campaigned on the promise to “undo things” were Reagan in 1980 and Gingrich in 1994. Both of those guys campaigned on grand ideas of reducing the size of government. And they won big.

          Then of course they got to Washington and were promptly stopped from fulfilling their promises by the ruling class. But that doesn’t change the fact that they not only won but won big.

          1. My recollection of 1980 is different than yours. Yes Regan campaigned against welfare queens, but he was far more strident about defeating the evil empire.

            And the contract with america was mostly about reforming the political process; which was the first step in reducing government. But Gingrich didn’t actually promise in 1994 that the Republicans would achieve actual reductions. He only promise that the Republicans would reverse the obstructionist procedures in the house implemented by the Democrats and therefore be able to bring government reductions to the floor.

            1. Regan campaigned on getting rid of the department of education, the interior, commerce and at least one other cabinet department (Energy I think). His biggest campaign line that year was about how untrue the line “I am from the government, I am here to help” was. The Democrats went insane in 1980 at the thought of him accomplishing half of what he was promising. He really was a no kidding small government conservative.

              Go back and read the Contract for America. Gingrich wanted to have show trials for various government programs. And he also wanted every department to have to justify its existence each year it asked for funding. It was pretty radical stuff.

              1. Go back and read the Contract for America.

                I have it open right now, I suggest you do the same.

                1. So eventually was there a breach of contract and did the judiciary accept the case?

          2. 1994 was about reform not reducing the size of the government.

            From wikipedia:

            On the first day of their majority, the Republicans promised to hold floor votes on eight reforms of government operations:

            require all laws that apply to the rest of the country also apply to Congress;

            select a major, independent auditing firm to conduct a comprehensive audit of Congress for waste, fraud or abuse;

            cut the number of House committees, and cut committee staff by one-third;
            limit the terms of all U.S. Congressmen and U.S. Senators;

            ban the casting of proxy votes in committee;

            require committee meetings to be open to the public;

            require a three-fifths majority vote to pass a tax increase;

            and implement a zero base-line budgeting process for the annual Federal Budget.

            1. Zero based budgeting is where we start every year with a baseline spending of zero and then make every program justify its existence.

              Zero based budgeting is totally about reducing the size of government and the size of government spending growth.

              Your link proves my point.

              1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/U…..ions,_1994

                Representatives on November 8, 1994, in the middle of President Bill Clinton’s first term. As a result of a 54-seat swing in membership from Democrats to Republicans, the Republican Party gained a majority of seats in the House for the first time since 1954.

                The Democratic Party had run the House for all but 4 of the preceding 72 years. The Republican Party, united behind Newt Gingrich’s Contract with America, which promised floor votes on various popular and institutional reforms, was able to capitalize on the perception that the House leadership was corrupt, as well as the dissatisfaction of conservative and many independent voters with President Clinton’s actions (including a failed attempt at universal health care and gun control measures).

                In a historic election, House Speaker Tom Foley (D-Washington) was defeated for re-election in his district, becoming the first Speaker of the House to fail to win re-election since the era of the American Civil War. Other major upsets included the defeat of powerful long-serving Representatives such as Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois) and Judiciary Chairman Jack Brooks (D-Texas).

                The majority leadership in the house was blown out of the water by smart campaigns that focussed on the isolation and corruption of the entrenched politicians of the democratic party.

                Perot ran as an independent in ’92 and as the head of the reform party in ’96.

                REFORM REFORM REFORM

                That was the mantra during the 1994 elections.

                1. And that little thing called zero based budgeting and reducing the size of government. Your own link say so. Just because reform was part of the campaign, doesn’t mean it was the only thing.

        3. Politicians don’t seek office to undo things, and the population does not vote for politicians that promise to undo things.

          …like alcohol prohibition, the Iraq War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Roe v Wade,…

          1. Hmmm…

            Vietnam War, ending of. I have a vague idea that one US president was assassinated, to avoid that. And nobody was prosecuted for it, or for Lee Havey Oswald’s murder.

  6. Finally, we have a charismatic and articulate president who, armed with a nearly national landslide

    You left out “clean”, you racist.

    Oh, and getting 52.9% of the popular vote and carrying 28 states, several of them by razor-thin margins, is not a “nearly national landslide”.

    1. And don’t forget the Dems won three or four senate seats by ridiculously (suspiciously ACORN) thin margins. It was not 1964 or 1980 despite claims to the contrary.

      1. ACORN is the new Diebold

    2. I am always stunned by people who proclaim Obama’s result “landslide”.

      My standards for “landslide” are 60%+, regardless of country and candidate involved.

      Of course, 99.98% for Fidel is another story…

    3. Under ordinary circumstances, calling an African American president “articulate” would carry an implied comparison to other African Americans; ie, that they use a dialect that makes them sound unintelligent to the mainstream white American dialect speakers.

      However, in Barack Obama’s case, it probably actually implies a comparison to other presidents.

      1. anonymous,wow racism wrapped in a nice package with a pretty bow.

    4. Rachel Maddow made sure to point out that Brown’s 52% victory was not a landslide.

  7. I said this immediately after the election that progressives were going to be wildly disappointed. Obama was either going to govern as a last six years of his term Clinton centrist or destroy the Democratic Party. But whatever happened, he wasn’t going to be able to raise taxes, regulation and turn the country into Sweden in the middle of the worst recession in 50+ years. But nooo. No one believed that. It was all Hopey Changey last January. Obama was going to remake American politics like a liberal Ronald Reagan. Well, the American body politic apparently didn’t get the memo.

    1. It’d be nice if people remembered that Sweden was only turned into “Sweden” after many years of prosperity developed by being the regions major trading hub.

      1. It’d also be nice if people realized that setting up a welfare state is a lot easier with only nine million people almost all of whom are Swedes and Lutherans.

        1. That is why the Arab neighbourhoods of Malmo, Goteborg and Stockholm look unmistakably Middle Eastern, and not Swedish.

          And by “Middle Eastern”, I mean squalid.

          1. But that was not the case when the Swedish welfare state was first established.

            It’s also worth noting that new pressures are now being put on that welfare state and there are also resentments developing about an immigrant class who are seen as welfare consumers rather than productive citizens.

            1. As is inevitable. See: Illegal Mexican immigrants coming here and getting school, health care and whatever else paid for by US citizens.

        2. Establishing a constitutional liberal democracy is a lot easier if your country consists of English colonists, but YMMV.

      2. Uh, you might also read “Post War” (Judt) and “World at Arms” (Weinberg).
        Sweden made a *ton* of money supplying Germany in WWII, including well after agreeing to halt the trade, and paid zero defense costs, either their own or those of other countries. Nor did they contribute in any serious way to the reconstruction of Europe or Scandinavia afterwards.
        Suffice to say, Sweden was one of the few countries or whom WWII was an unalloyed financial success.
        For obvious reasons, there has never been a sincere accounting of the amount of money made, but there is reason to believe that the economic ‘shadow’ of WWII is particularly long in Sweden.

        1. Yes, it is interesting that it is Switzerland that gets all the scorn about their WWII neutrality, when Sweden was much more pro-German.

          Although, in all fairness only a few Swedes were actually Pro-Nazi.

    1. Ahh, back in the day…

  8. I support a multi-million dollar allocation to erect the Broad Side of a Barn on the National Mall, provided Dems pledge to learn how to hit it.

  9. “So that’s what a cleft palate is for…”

  10. The disconnect between wanting “less government” and wanting “more government” – when the questions are not phrased as parallels – arises from (1) what one commentor pointed out, the general lack of understanding that government “stuff” has to be paid for by people; (2) the belief induced by at least 75+ years of politicians’ lies and smoke-screens that I can get a benefit and you can be made to pay for it; and (3) the unalterable fact that all local and most state politicking consists of getting something from local and state governments without paying for it in an obvious way. Zoning, local and state permits and licensing … *sigh* the list is nearly endless. The reason for the growing serious opposition to this administration’s programs is that the people are being reminded (for some, told plainly for the first time) that there ain’t no free lunch and that “Hi, I’m from Washington and I’m here to help you” is as much a lie as “Oh, come on, honey; I’ll only put the head in.” That’s why President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress is and has been desparate to pass all these programs quickly. The emergency is that when the people find out what these programs actually cost and will necessarily entail the people will rebel against this view of how America ought to be organized. Besides, the Presiden simply appoints a “czar” and gives them a suitably unfocused mandate and proceeds with his agenda. Disregarding the public? Yes and now with any luck the Democrats will lose control of the Congress in this year’s congressional elections. We may be permitted to hope.

  11. The Democrat’s big mistake is confusing opposition to Bush with support for socialism. Seems like they were the only ones fooled by Bush’s propaganda.


  12. “Wait wait wait. Here ya go. I got one.

    Here’s my impersonation of Monica”

  13. “The Penis Mightier–it works!”

    1. Why yes. Yes it does.

  14. To say that the Democrats “misjudged” the American people is perhaps naive. A more cynical view is that the Democrats knew damn well that they were out of step with the American people, but hoped that they could rush their programs through before anyone caught on to what they were up to.

    And frankly, given the way Obama rushed through his stimulus plan and tried to bull rush health care and cap-and-trade through Congress, I lean toward the cynic’s view.

    1. I think the Dems view themselves as smarter than everyone else and if only they can pass their bill the American people will just realize how good it is, or at least they will after their system has been around long enough that many people don’t know the difference, can’t understand the unintended consequences and has a vocal minority of supporters willing to defend it to the end.

      Also look at who has the biggest incentive to get informed and vote, people who want the government to do stuff; such people reap much more from advocacy than the average person can from being left alone. It’s concentrated benefits and diffuse costs.

  15. You’re gonna get it whether you want it or not.

    “it” = “booted out of congress”

  16. The only two candidates I can think of who actually campaigned on the promise to “undo things” were Reagan in 1980 and Gingrich in 1994. Both of those guys campaigned on grand ideas of reducing the size of government. And they won big.

    Um.how does Goldwater fit into this?

    Ancient history?

    1. Preview would be good…

  17. Yep. We hate government services. Just keep your damned government hands off my Medicare and Social Security. Oh, and you can’t cut defense, because if we ain’t pissing everyone else off with our military escapades, we aren’t taking everything we can get. Oh, and don’t cut this and that either. Oh, and DEFINITELY not that.

    Someday David will come to the realization that the median voter hates deficits, loves spending, and hates taxes, and that to win, a politician has to promise all three.

    1. I do hate government services at the federal level, other than providing for the common defense and making sure that one state cannot limit my freedom of movement and does not bar or impede interstate trade.

      Other than that, why the fuck should the federal government be involved in Medicare or Social Security? On what basis can they, confiscating my money for all of my working life, do a better job of provisioning for my retirement than I can. In point of fact, they cannot ? as evidenced by the fact that there is NO social security trust fund (or should I say it is some bureaucrat’s desk full of IOU’s) and Medicare is soon to go broke.

      1. Do you seriously think that I do not understand Social Security’s finances? I know damned well that a trust fund full of notes that say “We, the American taxpayers, owe ourselves a lot of money” are utterly worthless, regardless of our credit (which ain’t that good anyway).

        You guys really do like to beat straw men around me, and assume that I believe things that I don’t.

        Why do we have SS and Medicare? Because the alternative is extreme poverty for millions of eldery. Investing for retirement is incredibly risk-laden even for those of us who understand it. Most don’t, which is why we use automatic systems for the majority of the income for the majority of people.

        1. “Why do we have SS and Medicare? Because the alternative is extreme poverty for millions of eldery.”
          Well, that would be interesting except:
          “a trust fund full of notes that say “We, the American taxpayers, owe ourselves a lot of money” are utterly worthless,”
          Besides which the elderly are the wealthiest portion of the population.
          And, yes, I’m an old fart, and wish both programs were repealed tomorrow.

          1. It is interesting that you chose the word “wealth”. Yes, the eldery have on asset the greatest financial assets. They also have the greatest liabilities, including the inability to generate much income in many cases.

            You are just denying reality, typical of a libertarian. More than a third of those on SS use it for almost all of their income, and a quarter use it as the primary source. Only about 10% get by on private savings. The rest are on private or public pensions.

            1. It’s interesting that you (willfully I presume?) ignore that adequate wealth *needs* no income.
              As for the rest of your rant: Cites, please. And somehow, I’d bet they come from Daily Kos or equal.

              1. Yes, Ron. You are right.

                Unfortunately, the amount of wealth necessary for an not-much-above-poverty-level retirement without SS or Medicare would for a couple roughly be a paid-off house and $1.5 million in financial assets. What fantasy world are you living in where that is the norm?

                1. “Unfortunately, the amount of wealth necessary for an not-much-above-poverty-level retirement without SS or Medicare would for a couple roughly be a paid-off house and $1.5 million in financial assets.”
                  I see you have all sorts of numbers, and you’ve yet to indicate they come from anywhere except out of your butt.
                  “What fantasy world are you living in where that is the norm?”
                  Begging the question is almost as good as fantasizing numbers, right?

                  1. l2math, my friend.

                    You can (reasonably) safely pull 4% of your assets out and spend them if you retire at 65 without worrying too much about out-living your stash. So that’s $60000 per year for a couple, who would have to spend $25000 on that on medical insurance. That leaves them with $35000 per year, which gets chipped away by any medical inflation, and of course does not increase with regular inflation.

                    So, are you going to have $1.5 million in the bank (in today’s dollars) when you retire?

            2. And you’ve yet to address the built-in contradiction in your first post. Please retract one or the other claim.

            3. Why distinguish between private savings and public and private pensions not including SS? The very fact that many businesses uses a variety of automatic/opt out pension polices refutes the idea that the population at large needs SS/Medicare, which are really just giant ponzi scheme-esque programs designed to disguise welfare as a program for everyone. At the very least they should be completely means tested, and not force adult Americans capable of taking care of themselves into the system to disguise their wealth transfers and make them politically untouchable. Further, one could have mandatory retirement/health savings and government transfer payments to poor people without government actually running things like Meidcare; however that’s not what the left wants. They don’t merely want to help people, they want the control that Medicare gives them over prices and practices because they think they are smarter than everyone else and have access to this magical knowledge of what every American wants and needs in the health sector and how to most effectively meet those wants.

              1. The biggest difference, Tim? The bankers don’t steal .71% of my SS money each year. The cheapest mutual fund I can chose for my 401k plan allows them to.

                You are right that SS will needs (and will be) means tested. I am sure that Bill Gates can live without his $1000 monthly check. However, most people are simply not capable of investing for decades wisely. I once saw a statistic that less than 10% of people can compute compound interest, and as someone who has taught plenty of math classes, this sounds about right. Yes, Tim, people ARE stupid. It is a fact that you will have to deal with someday. If your solution to this stupidity is “Let the other ten percent screw fools”, well, then, we don’t have much to talk about.

                1. If people are too stupid to invest in their retirement, how are they smart enough to pick the right enlightened progressives to lead them? This is the inherent contradiction in progressivism.

                  How exactly do bankers “steal” from your 401k, darn those bastards who want to get paid for managing your money for you! However government steals 100% of your SS dollars from you, and then steals 100% of someone else’s SS dollars to pay you off in hopes that population/productivity growth will keep them solvent.

                  Again you build up a straw man though, libertarians support regulations against fraud; and have come to grips with the idea that people aren’t perfectly informed by building up a system that doesn’t rely upon electing enlightened bureaucrats to manage everything.

                  1. Why do they need .71% to stick my money to mirror the stock market. The funds I am investing in have tens of billions of dollars in them. Does it require require hundreds of millions of dollars per year to index? Absolutely not.

                    Worse yet, if I could get the money outside the fund, I could stick it in a Vanguard fund with fees that are less than half. But because of tax laws and employer policies, I can’t.

                    401ks, like HSAs, suck. We overpay on the fees and lose control of our capital. I would be much better off paying off my auto loan or using the money for a house downpayment, rather than leaving it in a black hole where I can’t touch it for 30 years.

            4. Please, address the contradict. Explain how a bunch of utterly worthless IOUs will prevent extreme poverty for millions of elderly in say…20, 30 years.

              1. Even if SS law is left untouched, you will still be getting ~3/4 of your promised benefits.

                1. Horse……………………………
                  shit. Do you just pick numbers off some random generator?
                  Please explain how bankers get .71% of your money and withdraw at least one of you comments.

                  1. .71% is the cheapest management fee for any of the funds that I am able to choose from in my 401k. That is not atypical. The only time I have seen less was when I worked for a very large firm that had its own funds, where it subsidized the management fees.

                2. Helluva deal! …my government at work for me!

        2. OMG Chad is whining about strawmen! They are his favorite tactic, btw I want to take the time to point out Chad as a dirty dishonest liar for his blatant misquoting of me back on the green jobs post. I wrote a series of posts about how a carbon tax is economically superior to the government subsidizing random energy efficiency and alternative energy products assuming AGW is a serious problem. The most relevant part is here I wrote

          “Carbon is the problem, but we have no idea what the solution to it is. We should use a carbon tax to harness the power of the market to figure out what combination of technology is the best to reduce carbon emissions rather than fund a scattershott of technologies we have no idea will work and that politicians have every incentive to use to fund another corn ethanol.”

          Then the moron only quotes

          “Carbon is the problem, but we have no idea what the solution to it is.

          Actually we do. I can think of three that would work just fine…Implement a carbon tax, then let the market sort it out.” So he can use his blatant misrepresentation to say “If you have “no idea” how to solve it, well that is a personal issue.” https://reason.com/archives/201…..nt_1528673

          He’s a liar. I could believe that maybe he just made an honest mistake if he hadn’t been quoting from multiple sections of my post. He just wants to build up a strawman that all non progressives are stupid so he doesn’t have to debate on the merits where ironically in this case we are likely to have somewhat similar views on the best solution to AGW if not necessarily on the extent of the problem.

          1. Perhaps I straw-manned you, Tim, because you were straw-manning the entire environmental movement, who has supported market-based solutions to environmental problems for decades. They have been used quite successful with respect to, say, SOx or fisheries. Yet you accuse of supporting “random projects”, which is patently absurd. If you are going to whine about straw men, first look in the mirror.

            In principle, C&T and a tax are the same economically. One can argue about the actual details of implementation, but I think we both prefer the tax. The problem is that Republicans would block such a plan and just scream TAX TAX TAX TAX! Now why aren’t you out there correcting the mistaken view of your ilk?

            1. I didn’t strawman the entire environmental movement, I argued against the subsidies for various green jobs programs; and I argued against the incredibly corrupt cap and trade process which is only economically the same as a tax in theory when implemented perfectly. Corn ethanol is just the best example of the special interest capture of the political environmental movement. I know you are Mr. Pragmatist, so how do you avoid the problem of companies gaming the carbon credit system to screw their competitors by getting unfair amounts of carbon permits? A carbon tax avoids this problem, which is why it is superior. While you strawmaned me again, because I never claimed that the environmental movement opposed market based solutions, just that they had also supported all kinds of stupid subsidies.

              I’ve posted in favor of a carbon tax on these boards and others, but would prefer it be offset by an income tax or other tax cut. I generally on these boards argue about the topic at hand, but no I have to post about everything you want as often as you want before you will stop dishonestly misrepresenting what I say? So Chad, are all Muslims terrorists until they all protest terrorism en masse load enough that every conservative Midwesterner can hear them? Where did I claim to be a Republican? Do you correct every stupid or dishonest statement made by the Democrats? No, you just repeat them; by claiming things like mutual fund managers steal your money. Clearly now you are completely ok with me dredging up any stupid statement by any left winger and diminish any argument you make because you don’t incessantly argue against it. I wonder how many Democrats are going to get in line behind you for means testing SS and Medicare after the upper middle class and rich seniors find out.

              However, you just prefer to lie because you can’t defend your own positions without straw men and ad hominems. It’s nice to see you admit to not being able to understand what I write by completely missing multiple posts where I argue in favor of the carbon tax; but also that you admit that after you misunderstand things and then project your own assumptions onto the issue such that you can claim others are being dishonest to justify your own dishonesty.

              Anyone who reads the above posts at https://reason.com/archives/201…..x-recovery through something other than a partisan lens would realize th at I’m not out to get all environmentalism; merely out to get the environmentalists and the politicians who use them to engage in bad economics. Environmentalism isn’t all a left wing movement either; however the left wingers right now are the ones advocating green jobs and the stupid cash for clunkers program which real environmentalists did criticize, but naturally didn’t get anywhere because of the poor incentives of governance I constantly remind you of Chad. My problem is with political environmentalism, and it is used by both sides to give their supporters handouts. Conservatives just call it “energy independence.”

              1. I know you are Mr. Pragmatist, so how do you avoid the problem of companies gaming the carbon credit system to screw their competitors by getting unfair amounts of carbon permits?

                You auction all of them, of course. Why do you think is any harder for corporate special interests to get unfair amounts of (free?) permits than it is for them to get special exemptions from the tax? Regulatory capture exists in both cases, and is something we just have to learn to deal with. It will exist anywhere outside of mythical Libertopia, frankly, and we must fight it rather than each other. I think we agree, though, that the tax is better, not only because it is (marginally) harder to manipulate and more transparent, but because the certitude of price helps corporate capital planning and reduces their risk.

                just that they had also supported all kinds of stupid subsidies.

                The only one you bring up is corn ethanol, which no environmentalist I know of has supported since it managed to escape the lab (and trust me, I spend a lot of time with environmentalists). Corn ethanol is a perversion by Big Ag and the key senators it controls. The environmental movement has its stupidity as well (nuclear and GMO’s come to mind, as do some of their NIMBY tendancies), but they were actually well ahead of the game on biofuels, pointing out the land-use issues decades ago.

                I think your conception of incentives is skewed, vastly over-esimating the motivation provided by money and under-estimating the motivation provided by being respected, and having done the right thing. I also think you under-estimate how financial incentives in real markets (not mythical, hypothetical “free” markets) can be wildly off the mark and lead us into terrible decisions. I think this is where we fundamentally disagree, and frankly, where most people disagree with you. The market’s decision-making process is flawed in the real world, and any possible real world. That is why we need to use multiple layers of decision-making processes, using multiple techniques and involving different groups of people. In particular, the market is bad at making the big, long-term decisions. It is pretty good at the little stuff. For example, choosing WHICH solar technology is best suited for which application. But it is not good at choosing between solar and coal, because of the wildly differing externalities and differing long-term consequences.

                1. I was arguing against the various “green jobs” subsidies that were in the stimulus package as the article mentioned, and things like cash for clunkers which were sold to stupid people as environmentalism. However since you are incredibly partisan, you just assumed I was bashing environmentalism rather than arguing how to implement such policies intelligently; of which the carbon tax is the best solution.

                  What we have learned about you is that we can’t trust anything you say, because it seems that so long as you think someone else is wrong or lying or building up strawmen for any reason; you feel it is completely ok to lie about them and completely misrepresent what they say.

                  I don’t just ignore non financial incentives, because I’m not just talking about politicians; but about voters. Voters are rationally ignorant of many issues because the costs of being well informed are high and get higher the larger government is while the impact of their single vote is small and the benefits of good policy to them individually is small. How many average American’s self respect is worth the investment required to be able to read a Brookings institution paper. How is the average voter who can’t understand investing able to understand regulating investing, foreign policy, building infrastructure, managing health care, etc able to choose politicians that will understand these things and have sufficient moral incentive to overcome their bad financial incentives? Progressives don’t have an answer for this.

                  1. Progressives DO have the answer for it Tim: Elect progressives. Most of the rest of the industrialized world has figured this out. Yet we, for some unfathomable reason, keep electing Republicans. The problem with that is that Republicans are just as ignorant as the people they are supposed to represent, yet it is their job NOT to be deliberately ignorant. Progressives aren’t perfect, but they get it right more far more often than they don’t, largely because they put facts before their ideology (and when they don’t, there are plenty of progressives like me who pan them for it. For example, nuclear power). Please note how the Democrats are divided over things yet the Republicans are voting in absolute lockstep. The internal debate in the Republican party comes down to “We are going to stop everything, and if you try to stop us, we will whack you in the next election. OK, time for the golf course”.

                    You are right, though, that we do not have all the answers. Neither does the “free market” or any other system. That’s why we need many systems operating at once and cross-checking one another. Eventually we manage to muddle through most problems. But pretending that markets would be (almost) perfect if they were just pure enough is a childish fantasy, because they will never reach that magical level of purity which prevents them from making grave errors. The question should not be whether individual libertarian policies work in Libertopia, but rather whether they work in the real world. Many of them do not.

    2. Oh, BTW, I would say “fuck you, you statist” (and if I said it, I would mean it in the friendliest way possible), but I wouldn’t fuck your statist asshole with Tony’s dick

  18. …the electorate is walking?maybe sprinting??back from the progressive economic policies that now dominate Washington.

    (and, yes, it is a terrific struggle not to place ironic quotations marks around the word “progressive”).

  19. I live in New Zealand and I can tell you with certainty that socialized medicine is a very, very bad idea. I am pleased to see that Americans are beginning to understand that.

    1. Story (anecdotal):
      Person I know suffers injury. Calls the hospital the first day, hospital says ‘do this, do that’.
      Next day worse, call, hospital says ‘come in’. Do, get treated, things go well.
      Discuss with ex-pat Canadian doc, he says ‘in Canada, you’d just go at the first possible indication’; this presented as a positive, but it sounds to me like a waste of resources.
      Dawns on me later; you do that in Canada, or risk losing your place in the que to some guy with a cut on his finger.

  20. Where you go wrong is thinking Obama won in a ‘landslide’ like that gives you some kinda blank check mandate.

    We have not had a real landslide in a long time.

    Heck most people don’t even vote, at best you can claim that you got a simple majority of the small percentage of people that voted.

    Just because you win an election by a few extra points over a simple majority of those that voted does not mean most of the TOTAL population actually likes you.

    1. Exactly. People were angry at Bush and the Republicans. That’s how they voted at the polls. That doesn’t mean they all suddenly became Progressives. That election was a mandate for the Dems to clean up what some saw as Bush’s mess – not a mandate to turn the country into a Workers’ Paradise.

  21. America is rising for the better and here is why:


  22. Exactly. People were angry at Bush and the Republicans. That’s how they voted at the polls. That doesn’t mean they all suddenly becamereplica IWC Progressives. That election was a mandate for the Dems to clean up what some saw as Bush’s mess – not a mandate to turn the country into a Workers’ Paradise.

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