The Case For Back-Room Deals, Party Hacks & Unlimited Money in Politics

Jonathan Rauch's Political Realism argues that libertarians should embrace "transactional politics" if they want big changes.


"Libertarians forget that the winds are generally—socially, economically—in their favor," says Jonathan Rauch, author of the new Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy. "It is not in their interest to just obstruct on the grounds that everything gets worse if Congress does nothing. What really happens if Congress does nothing is power flows to the president, who does what he damn well pleases."

Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has a message that idealistic libertarians, progressives, and populists don't want to hear. Appropriations committees are good for us. So are unlimited political contributions to political parties and individual candidates. So are earmarks and even political hacks of all persuasions. What manner of madness is this?!?!

A longtime political reporter at National Journal and The Atlantic and the author of a shelf's worth of important books on topics from free speech to gay marriage to special-interest politics, Rauch's latest book, available as a free download at Brookings' site and at, provocatively argues that back-room deals and what used to be called "honest graft" actually strengthen our democracy.

Such dealings, he tells Reason's Nick Gillespie, are more than just necessary evils that grease the rusty wheels of politics and allow politicians to enact more laws. They're a fundamental way that human beings communicate and negotiate in a functioning democracy. And in a country that tilts toward individual freedom and libertarian values, he says, that is a good thing.

About 18 minutes. 

Produced by Todd Krainin. Vignettes by Joshua Swain.


Reason:  Hi, I'm Nick Gillespie with Reason TV and today we're talking with Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution. His latest book is Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Backroom Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy. John, thanks for talking to us.

Jonathan Rauch: Nick, it's always great to see you, and I'm glad to see you've changed to black today.

Reason:  That's right. This is the Frankenstein ensemble, with a jacket and everything.

Rauch: The new Gillespie Look. 

Reason:  Yes. This book is fascinating. It's available for free at the Brookings Institution website and Amazon. 

Rauch: It's very short; only 16,000 words, so you can read it on your plane home. 

Reason:  It's a particularly challenging document, I think, to libertarians, because what you're saying is that there are problems with our political system and that libertarians, progressives, and populists are part of the problem here. That's because as a general rule, we expect a kind of dogmatic allegiance to extreme ideological positions in the political realm. And that that crashes the system in a way that hurts everything. 

Talk a little bit about political realism. What do you mean by that term? And then let's talk about why machine politics weren't as bad as they usually are perceived to be. 

Rauch: So, the four-word bumper-sticker version of Political Realism is: "Let Politicians Be Politicians." 

The very slightly longer explanation is: In order to organize politics, and for anything to work, you need political machines, or things that function like political machines. These are informal hierarchies that make politicians accountable to each other, because in our system politicians cannot reward and punish each other directly. It's not like Britain where you can basically be fired if you vote against the party. So you have to create these networks where they incentivize each other, so that followers will follow leaders and that requires stuff like pork barrel spending and political machines. It requires some control of the ballot, so you can protect your people and they can take a tough vote. The problem is that if you're an idealist, those kinds of machines and structures don't look really good when you hold them up to the light and say is this perfect, is it beautiful? So we spent the last 40 years demolishing all of that equipment, and libertarians have been a big part of that. 

Reason:  The 2016 presidential race is a kind of example of the breakdown of the system that you're talking about. You wouldn't have a Donald Trump or a Ben Carson, or arguably a Bernie Sanders, running if political machines and if political party hierarchies were still functioning in a meaningful way. 

Rauch: Well that's right, and the Republican party has been extraordinary to watch. Completely helpless to do anything about what amounts to an insurgency against the Republican brand by complete outsiders with a lot of money. By the way, it's not just Trump. One of the results of trying to get the politics out of politics and clean it up with all these rules and stuff is that we now so restricted how much money the parties can raise and spend and how they spend it, that you've got money flowing mostly to these outside political machines, which are not accountable to anybody. 

Reason:  Well they're not accountable to voters per se, but they're accountable to the people who are funding them, and that's the problem right? That in primaries, say if you have a PAC, a super PAC, that is funneling a lot of money and challenging people in primaries, they can get an extreme person on the ballot, who may not even represent the party whose name they're appearing next to. 

Rauch: Oh, often does not represent the party. We often don't know who they're accountable to because we often don't know who they actually are. But the other problem that people don't think about is while we're all focusing on where's the money going in the campaign is, what happens after the campaign? The other 364 days of the year you've gotta govern. What happens when John Boehner tries to get the votes together to keep the government open for example, or pass an immigration bill, which he would have like to have done, and he can't get anyone to do it because all his guys are more afraid of the shadow PACs, the super PACs, and the outside money than they are of him? 

Reason:  [One of the reasons] you argue why we need the political parties, why we need machines, why we need hacks, at a certain level, is to get stuff done, to get shit done, right? So what happened when the government suspended operations for a few days [back in 2013]? What is not getting done that needs to get done? 

Rauch: Sometimes things don't get done because there's no consensus and people don't know what to do. Fixing Medicare, that's really hard; no one knows what to do. The problem is when you have a consensus, when you have a plan, when both parties want to get the thing done, and despite the fact that a majority of members of both parties in Congress and the president want to get it done, it still doesn't get done. 

Reason:  Going back to 2000, we've had the Bush tax breaks, Medicare Part D, we've had The Patriot Act, two authorizations of use of military force, Sarbanes-Oxley, the Bush stimulus in 2008, TARP, the Obama stimulus, multiple debt limit increases, the expansion of TARP under Obama, Obamacare, Dodd-Frank… I mean it seems to me, we're getting a lot big stuff done, most of which I find contemptible, but that's getting done. And then the day-to-day stuff, what is it, something like 60 percent of federal spending and federal activities are effectively on autopilot because it's all debt and entitlements. What is the problem then? That John Boehner can't whip his people into shape? 

Rauch: First of all, some of the stuff you mentioned is really old, and this phenomenon as it's now unfolding is actually pretty new. The huge entry of the super PAC money has come in the last 4 or 5 years, and it's only as recently as 2012 that the super PACs began to outspend the mainstream political parties. 

And that's when you really get the situation where John Boehner doesn't really have the tools he needed. It's also very recently that you get rid of earmarks, which were one of the last available tools for incentivizing people to take hard votes. If you want to fix Medicare or Social Security, you're gonna give that Florida congressman something. Maybe he needs a post office, so that's one issue. Another is if you're the type of liberal that counts votes and looks at congressional productivity–I know you don't–but that looks terrible recently. It's fallen off a cliff. 

But what I worry about is every decade, once or twice in a decade, you get a chance to do a real reform. It should have been immigration reform. That Senate bill wasn't perfect, but it was pretty good and there was a majority of people in both chambers and both parties, and a president that wanted to get that done. It died because a minority of the Republican caucus would not be controlled by their own leadership, and the leadership had no ways to deal with that. That's a big missed opportunity. You also couldn't fund the Homeland Security Department, despite the fact that everyone wanted to do that. 

Let's set aside the policy, when the political system is not just failing to decide because it doesn't know what to do or it disagrees, but can't decide, even when it knows what it wants to do, that's a different kind of problem. 

Reason:  The government has not really passed a true budget in years, and the Senate under Democratic control actually went four years without even producing a document that they didn't vote on. They didn't even produce the document. Is that a systemic failure, or is that a failure of leadership? 

Rauch: I think it's looking in the wrong place, Nick. One of the things that a lot of libertarians and progressives share is looking with utter contempt and disdain on appropriations committees. 

Reason:  Mmhmm. 

Rauch: Liberals think they're closed, they're smoke-filled rooms. Libertarians think these are logrollers, this is pork at its worst. In fact, what appropriations committees did was fairly quiet meetings of grownups to apportion the budget, not perfectly, but they were actually a force for restraint. And when we blew them away and substituted entitlements, or chaos, which is what we've got now, we lost a lot of the control that we used to have over where the money went. And that's a challenge to people who think smoke-filled rooms are always the wrong answer. 

Reason:  I'm going to mispronounce his name, Moisés Naím, who a couple of years ago wrote a book called The End of Power, where he charted internationally many large organizations–he's talking about large corporations as well as central governments, churches, and religions in his book The End of Power–charted how it's harder and harder to actually centralize power and get things done because of a variety of technological changes and social changes. Power is leeching out of the system. Is what you're talking about basically… It's not that you're wrong in even saying the stuff should be done differently, but the fact is that [the age of top-down organization] has passed? 

Rauch: That age has definitely passed, you can't turn back the clock, you can't go back to Tammany Hall, even if you wanted to. I don't want to, but that argument's a bit of a straw man, because it forgets that although times have changed and we've got social media and lots of things are different, a lot of this, not all of it, but a significant part is a result of deliberate policy choices. We deliberately chose to get rid of earmarks. We deliberately chose to blow up the old seniority system and committee structures in congress. There was some bad in the system, but there was also a lot of good. We deliberately chose campaign finance laws that sharply limited the amount of money that parties could raise, and limited even more weirdly, their ability to spend it on their own candidates. 

Reason:  To talk about next steps. You're definitely not saying we need to go back to a preexisting era and just replicate that. [You're saying] we need to learn from the past, and one of the things that you talk about are campaign finance laws. Talk a little bit about what you mean. You're not saying we're not gonna get money out of politics, and money in politics is not necessarily a bad thing. But one of the policies you say that I think is pretty interesting is to say, Let people give as much money as they want—[let them give to] super PACs or directly to candidates or parties. How does that change the equation? 

Rauch: Basically what we've been trying to do for 40 years now is sequester politicians from money. The problem is you create a black market for money. That's an idea that any libertarian will be familiar with, and you simply drive the money outside accountable channels and into these shadow networks. It's now clear that even if the Supreme Court would let you ban outside money, there's no practical way to do it. The best answer, flawed, but better than any other, is to bring that money back inside the system, funnel it through the parties, which are very large organizations. You can't buy a whole political party, maybe you can buy a chunk of a congressman, but you can't buy a whole party. They're more accountable than anyone else, they can move that money around and begin to use it as an incentive. They can tell a member look, if you vote for this Medicare cut, we're gonna help you in your race and we have the money to do it. So there are a lot of people who are increasingly saying, Let's bring the money back in, instead of trying to drive it out. It's kind of like marijuana legalization, you know, it's just not working in the underground economy. 

Reason:  Give an example of where giving somebody a little earmark allowed for a much greater good to take place. 

Rauch: It used to happen all the time. People like Trent Lott, former Senate Majority Leader, are on record as having said that one of John Boehner's big problems is that he doesn't have any incentives any more. There's really nothing that he can give his members to give them for a vote. And that makes life just a whole lot more difficult when you're trying to do transactions. It wasn't the whole ball game. In some ways it was only a small piece of it, but it was something you could do to bring that reluctant person along. When you lost it, both because of procedural changes and because the Tea Party said we're gonna vote against people who take earmarks, it was kind of in some ways the straw that broke the camel's back. 

Reason:  I'm thinking back to I guess was Ben Nelson in Nebraska. He basically won the tontine, he was the last holdout of Obamacare, so he got a bunch of stuff directed to Nebraska and to his constituents for that. I mean, that era has kind of ended? 

Rauch: Well I think if earmarks were allowed, that would be a good thing. I think it would help somewhat at the margins. People forget that by the time earmarks were abolished, they had already been reformed. They were transparent. They were all posted online. There were systems to get them. It was like applying for a grant, it wasn't the old backroom anymore. So I'd bring 'em back. I also wouldn't claim that it would change the world. What I'm really trying to do with this book and indeed this interview is get people to think differently, to begin to think about the importance of transactional politics and deal making as the only way to get anything other than chaos, which is what we increasingly have right now. And about all the tools the politicians need to do that. That's earmarks, that's money, it's control of the ballot, it's privacy, that is quiet meetings. 

Reason:  Political privacy, yeah? 

Rauch: Political privacy, which we've made much harder. 

Reason:  If you're trying to convince libertarians let me ask you: We've seen across the government, not so much in the federal government, but in past years we've seen gay marriage reform or [outright] legalization; we've seen pot, medical marijuana, and increasingly recreational pot go the right way, typically while being antagonized by the federal government. We've seen some reforms of The Patriot Act and surveillance. We've seen a new discussion about foreign policy starting to kind of filter through. What do we get [from your changes?] What do libertarians get if they sign on to this transactional idea, that politics is not about ideals or extremes, it's about incremental change in the right direction? 

Rauch: So I mentioned earlier, that if we're lucky we get one big reform in a decade. If you think about the direction of reform in the last few decades, [it went like this]: In the '70s, transportation deregulation, revolutionary, market people love it; in the '80s, tax reform, very big deal in its time, really helped for a while, market people love it, simpler, flatter, cleaner tax code; in the '90s it was welfare reform [and] it was also a new kind of farm bill, which was a step in the right direction [that] for unrelated reasons it didn't work out. In the 2000s it would have been Social Security reform, if we hadn't enter the zone of paralysis; and now it would have been immigration reform. 

The next one needs to be entitlement reform. Libertarians forget that the winds are generally—socially, economically—in their favor. It is not in their interest to just obstruct on the grounds that everything gets worse if Congress does nothing. What really happens if Congress does nothing is power flows to the president, who does what he damn well pleases.

Reason:  You also key in on a deal in Utah about gay marriage that kind of points to the type of positive outcomes that happen if people are adult enough to take transactional politics seriously. Talk a little bit about what happened there and why that's a model we should be looking at. 

Rauch: Utah had bunch of gay people who wanted a gay rights bill, discrimination protections, and it had a bunch of Mormon people who were not on board with, as they call it, the "gay lifestyle," but who decided that they were OK with anti-discrimination law if it included religious protections. What then happened is a process where some people went behind closed doors for a period of intense conversations, begun quietly over period of years. Then [the participants became] much more focused and came out with a deal. This would be, if not illegal, very difficult in many political environments today. Because it's what a lot of progressives hate; it's quiet, secret, negotiation. But it turns out if you want to get a bunch of people to really put their cards on the table and start saying, What do you need? What do I need? How do we move forward on this?–that's what you gotta be able to do. People forget, transactional politics isn't just logrolling; it's social conciliation. It's how we get along as a society, how we negotiate with each other as human beings in politics. 

Reason:  When you talk about the religious exemptions for anti-discrimination laws, you mean things what would allow businesses or people in Utah to be able to step out of a situation, like baking a cake for a gay marriage reception or something? 

Rauch: Because of the nature of their law, Utah didn't get into the specifics of what businesses have to do with customers. They don't have a public accommodations line in their law, but what it did mean is, for example, Brigham Young University will not be required to recognize gay couples for student housing, and there are lots of other exemptions like that that make it much easier for the Mormon Church to go on about its business. 

Reason:  The new book, which I highly recommend that everybody read–it's a quick read, a fast read, and a genuinely provocative and intriguing one–is Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Backroom Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy. 

Rauch: And 100% free. 

Reason:  That's right. It's worth every penny too. Thank you Jonathan Rauch of the Brookings Institution. For Reason TV, I'm Nick Gillespie.


NEXT: Kim Davis Seems to Think God Cares About Valid Government Marriage Licenses

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  1. lol wut?

  2. His viewpoint is valid if, and only if, you start with the assumption that there must be a police power monopoly state.

    Otherwise, fuck off, slaver!

    1. My thoughts as well. His approach is sort of ‘if you can’t beat them join them’. No speaking of eliminating the use of government for personal/religious/whatever agendas. No mention of ‘buzz off, live and let live’.

      1. If you have a magic way to get that, be my guest. Otherwise, yeah, you can’t beat them, so let’s make the best deals we can, & keep up pressure for more.

        1. Yeah, but by participating in the bad system, one aids its growth.

          It is basically the choice one shopkeeper makes when the local Mafia demands that he pay protection money or see his shop burned to the ground. Of the principled responses he has, he can leave the neighborhood, shut down his business, go to war with the Mafia, or go to the (uncorrupted) law enforcement agencies (if any are left). None are great choices for a simple shopkeeper.

          But to go with the most popular corrupted response, he can pay the protection money, which helps the Mafia to grow and spread its thievery. He can go further and seek to actively help the Mafia, gaining more for himself in exchange but advancing the thievery further.

    2. Exactly Scarecrow.

  3. Libertarians have zero political leverage for any of this.

    Also, what Scarecrow said.

  4. It’s Krainin’ men, halellujah it’s Krainin men

    1. Never heard that one before. 😐

  5. I appreciate the general tone of this. libertarians in general tend to be dogmatic. Libertarians should drop their dogmatism, drop the Austrian econ (Chicago School FTW), drop the ancaps, drop the rothbard and rand.
    Realize that we will never get rid of the welfare state (and that it may not be desirable to abolish it either) and that we will have some level or regulation.
    Realize that we often need to intervene abroad and that we should form a strategy that conforms loosely to our values.

    1. ANd embrace Friedman

    2. Libertarians should drop their dogmatism, drop the Austrian econ (Chicago School FTW), drop the ancaps, drop the rothbard and rand. libertarianism -Shorter derp

      1. Embracing a more Friedmanite consequentialist version of libertarianism is the only way to makei progress and attract people.
        Sorry cyto Ayn rand is not a good face and Austrian econ is just demonstrably wrong. ABCT is not a sufficient explanation for most crises

        1. Lol. The only people that pay attention to shit Milton Friedman said are those ‘dogmatic’ Libertarians/Market Anarchists, etc.

          Nobody else cares about anything he’s ever said, and they never will. Embracing Friedman is just as sure a path to irrelevance.

        2. I embrace a Friedmanite consequentalist version of libertarianism. That’s why I’m an anarchist, and while I don’t annoy non-libertarians as much as Rothbardians or Randians do, I still have a lot of troubling attracting people.

          1. “I still have a lot of troubling attracting people.”
            Because you are an anarchist

            1. But I’m a Friedmanite consequentalist! Which is the only way to attract people, so what’s the problem??

              Oh, it’s my libertarian positions. So Cytotoxic is right.

              1. /no being a small goverment person is more attractive and reasonable than being an anrchist. anarchy is a cool thought experiment. polycentric law yada yada, but not at all realistic

                1. but not at all realistic

                  Nor is the belief that co-opting Libertarians into the two big govt parties is somehow going to result in smaller govt.

                2. A cool thought experiment? Anarchy is very realistic. The problem is folks who scream about how bad and inefficient socialism is, only to embrace it as magically efficient and effective when it comes to the military and sometimes even security.

                  Freedom (aka anarchy) is realistic. What is unrealistic is the belief that only “top men” should be able to rob folks and use violence against them, and that only when applied to what they believe in, such departments will be magically efficient.

                  1. “Anarchy is very realistic. ”

                    Well in the sense that ’90s-era Somalia was real.

                3. Why would anyone be “attracted” to my broader position? I don’t go up to people saying “here’s why you need to be an anarchist!” Likewise, no one’s going to respond, “Oh, you believe in small government? Please, tell me more.” I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I talk to people about issues, not labels, and I usually approach an issue in a way the audience already sympathizes with. No one I met has been with me on pot decriminalization and then changed their position if/when they find out I think the state has no legitimacy at all.

                  What’s hilarious is that you’re the one being dogmatic here. No ancaps argh blarg! The Friedmanite thing to say is probably what Friedman himself said to his ancap son: I disagree with your conclusion, but do continue trying to persuade others.

        3. Have fun trying to get results with a movement that has no serious coherent philosophical core. Say hi to The Conservative Movement on Mt. Useless.

          1. People dont care about philosophy. Neither of the parties have coherent philosophies, its just gimme gimme gimme and tell me what i want to hear

    3. The Chicago school monetarists have failed spectacularly. Thanks, but no thanks to that heaping helping of derp.

      1. How so? And have you looked into Sumner’s market monetarism?

        1. You can stimulate the economy by… the magic of messing with the money supply! Yay! Dollars for everybody!

          Production is where wealth comes from. Anyone who says otherwise is an idiot or is trying to sell you something.

    4. Great.

      But we are SO FAR beyond that, to the point of critical mass, and people want MORE free shit.

      If we don’t throw a line to pull this thing back to reality, then we do no good at all. If the attitude is “the line is drawn here and no further” we are ALREADY Wile E. Coyote standing fifteen feet off the cliff, we just haven’t looked down yet.

      In short, even so many libertarians are ignorant of just where we stand fiscally, economically, and monetarily.

      Or put another way, who the fuck is out there cutting my 50% tax, regulation, debasement confiscation back down to some reasonable % (like 25-30%)?

      No one.

      The parasites are eating the host from the inside out and outside in. And it’s gone three decades past “compromise”.

      The whole bubble nearly burst seven years ago, and all we did was strap another $7,000,000,000,000 of stupidity to the blasting caps, and I’m supposed to “reasonable”.

      1. Hear, hear. Why is it that the compromises always involve taking more out of my pocket?

    5. This.

      The voting public is not ready for pure libertarianism at this point. We have to give them seemingly ordinary candidates with a libertarian streak, like Rand Paul.

      “Abolish all occupational licensing and end all welfare programs immediately” is simply not going to happen anytime soon. Yes, it’s the philosophical ideal, but it’s just not possible. If people want libertarianism to be anything more than a little meme on comment sections, they have to learn to wheel and deal and play the political game, as disgusting as it may be.

      Libertarians should put the most attractive aspects forward and put it in terms that most people can agree with. Learn to use terms like “income inequality” when discussing how stupid government policies prevent people from improving their lot.

      Someone on here said one time, “you can be right, or you can win.” Take that to heart if you actually want to take some steps toward Libertopia rather than talk and talk and talk about the details of this theoretical Libertopia that exists in your mind.

      1. amen

      2. Oh please, this is all more masturbatory than the “dogmatic” libertarians sketching out Libertopia. Who are you talking about? What policies do you see enacted, and how? Are you talking about the Libertarian Party getting Serious and moderating its positions? Maybe if they’re not so radical about occupational licensing they’ll pull… 1.3% of the vote. Huzzah!

        Or are we talking libertarian-leaning Republicans or Democrats? They’re moderate enough, though it doesn’t matter how far they moderate their positions. No one talks about ending all welfare programs immediately. The most that gets discussed is tweaking who gets what benefits when. Such middling proposals are characterized as starving the masses and are difficult to pass, especially in a form that actually saves money or increases liberty. The best a libertarian-leaning candidate do is offer those kinds of policies, while also surviving the culture war.

        Cato, Reason, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, etc., all provide sensible policy proposals to nudge us a little closer to a libertarian country. What more do you expect, and why do you think it would be any more successful than it has been so far?

        If libertarians need to wake up, it’s waking up to the fact that most people don’t want what we’re selling. That’s that.

        1. So just give up and cry?

          1. Don’t expect politics to accomplish much, if anything. And when politics does fail you, don’t blame the “dogmatists” as if it’s all their fault for not being moderate enough.

            1. So nothing could be done to advance liberty? Just muh agorism? I already use dnms

              1. No more than what’s being done currently. A few technological breakthroughs that undermine the state, the occasional policy emerges that is more good than bad, maybe there’s a floating city that gains sovereignty.

                Again, what are you proposing? What do you envision happening when Lew Rockwell says, “OK, the welfare state is fine, but let’s rethink Medicaid payments”? The LP actually gets someone elected? GOP voters flock to candidates good on regulatory issues but with no strong position on abortion? Anyone gives a shit about monetary policy?

                1. What’s funny is that woody apparently believes this is a new idea and that people haven’t already been trying this for decades now.

                2. To be fair, an electable Libertarian Party might do some good on the political front. Costa Rica made it happen.

                3. Maybe some more people start saying it, & then maybe Medicaid payments actually get rethought.

        2. My post was in response to the people on this comments section who say “fuck off, slaver” to anyone who advocates anything other than an overnight transition to pure anarcho-capitalism.

          1. Ah! That’s it! It’s Internet commenters holding America back! Damn us! Gary Johnson could have gotten 2%, if only we had kept our mouths shut.

            No one here fits your strawman. And why do you think none of us put our most attractive aspects forwards and use buzzwords like income inequality when it suits us? It’s really a funny complaint to lodge here; you’re not at infowars or ronpaulforums or We’re some of the least aggressive libertarians on the Internet. (…well, aggressive in terms of dogmatism) There is very little grouching about any “transgressions” by Rand Paul. Alternative tax schemes that don’t start with “abolish all taxes” are seriously discussed. Ditto welfare and regulatory reforms. Cato usually only gets shit if they propose something that might be counterproductive (e.g. replacing gas taxes with per-mile fees). Etc.

            1. This. Amusingly, you actually allude to a better point Akira could make. Gary Johnson should be a senator, but he wanted to play fantasy games with the LP. Now that would be a good example of libertarians doing it wrong.

      3. We need to be careful to segment our efforts.

        Our efforts to elect politicians absolutely must be pragmatic not dogmatic and will have to be for a long time.

        Our efforts to build a movement must be based on a philosophy (‘dogma’ as some would slur it) or it cannot succeed.

        “Learn to use terms like “income inequality” when discussing how stupid government policies prevent people from improving their lot.”

        Oh give us all a freakin’ break. This was tried with OWS. Those retards want Collective Power Uber Alles and ‘income inequality’ is just a talking point to justify it. You can’t fight for capitalism with weapons designed to destroy it! Thanks for reaffirming my Objectivism.

  6. Perusing this, I agree that these are all important parts of a functioning democracy. That’s why I’m not a fan of democratic politics.

    Or, what Scarecrow already said.

  7. while i appreciate the concept that absolutism is not always helpful, and compromise is often needed….. the idea that earmarks and pork can be good is more naive than the absolutist positions he is arguing against.

    the only good example he gave was Utah. and they did not use riders, or “incentives” to get the law…. they talked and talked for years until they had something they could agree on. there is nothing illegal about talking, and reaching an understanding. the problem is that the sides are not willing to talk things out.

    with earmarks, the point is to get someone to vote for something that they (or the people who vote for them… translation of “tough” votes) do NOT agree with. it is lazy legislating, and probably a big reason so many of our laws are so terrible now… they don’t bother getting to a workable law that people can agree to, they just throw enough people a bone to get them to agree.

    as for the lack of money and power of the party… GOOD!!! we need to stop looking at everything as R vs D, and look more at the people we elect.

    1. “with earmarks, the point is to get someone to vote for something that they (or the people who vote for them… translation of “tough” votes) do NOT agree with. it is lazy legislating, and probably a big reason so many of our laws are so terrible now… they don’t bother getting to a workable law that people can agree to, they just throw enough people a bone to get them to agree”

      A bit of a stretch, but that could be used to describe a voluntary, mutually beneficial transaction.

      i.e. in the market there is a price for everything..

      1. “A bit of a stretch, but that could be used to describe a voluntary, mutually beneficial transaction”

        by this logic, progressives are actually libertarian? if you give people free stuff to get their vote, is that not voluntary and mutually beneficial? (even if it impacts more than just the people involved directly in the transaction?) the stuff they are giving to the people to get their vote is stolen from the rest of us, and earmarks are a way to force it through, by attaching it to unrelated laws, or budgets that they need to or should pass.

        if you think earmarks are good, then you think waste of taxpayers money for things not even related to the law being passed is good. nothing market about it.

  8. Um….I don’t want it to be easier for Congress to get “stuff” done. That sounds dangerous to me. In fact the only “stuff” I want them doing is getting rid of the old “stuff” they’ve already done.

    1. That is really the key point – I want my congressman to do his best to prevent bad laws from being enacted. Period. Getting stuff done is not necessarily a valid goal. Keeping people from screwing things up worse than they already are is always beneficial.

      I found Rauch’s argument largely uncompelling… to blame Libertarians for the decline of the system is to give them credit for power that i have never seen them possess, much less exercise.

      1. a “do-nothing Congress” is sort of like a “do-nothing arsonist.”

        …Twittermeister Iowahawk

  9. TEAM BLUE/RED, aka TEAM BE RULED: “Come on, baby, why don’t you go down on me again? I promise not to come in your mouth this time.”

    Fuck you, Rauch.

  10. TL;DR yet, but so far it looks like he’s saying what I’ve tended to say here & elsewhere for years, which is:

    (1) Accept that politicians exist to be influenced. That’s their job. Especially elected representatives. They’re not supposed to believe in anything, although it’s OK if they do as long as they don’t let their beliefs interfere w their jobs.

    (2) As RAW wrote, “Convictions make convicts.” Judging issues morally is bad for you if you take it too seriously. Better adopt an attitude that there is no absolute good or bad, and that people who take the bad side are not bad persons, they just disagree w you.

    (3) The people who disagree w you are just like you in the most important ways. What you think about them, they think about you. Neither of you can prove the other wrong. That’s what opinion is.

    (4) Although there’s no absolute good or bad, there’s always better or worse. Go for better.

  11. I think the guy is completely correct that transactional politics is the only way to ever get anything done in DC.

    And I suppose if you think that libertarian ideas will ever be implemented by DC from the top-down; then I suppose libertarians should embrace transactional politics.

    Me? I think the only solutions to anything are gonna be local. And the only tough part is gonna be breaking the dependence on DC – and centralized intermediaries (incl Reason).

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