Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What Went Wrong: Let's Make It Harder to Hike Spending

To fix what went wrong we are going to have to change the culture from freeloading and buying votes to a culture of individual responsibility, as the previous installment argued. (Beginning of series here.)

But what about the medium term?  The answer comes from the problem described by John C. Goodman in his description of the Obamacare auction process:  Writes James V. DeLong:
Health expert John Goodman called Obamacare “a Rube Goldberg nightmare,” written “to appease every single Democratic constituency and every major special interest group.”  The process was like “going around a table asking each group what is the one thing they must have in order to support the legislation — the insurance companies, the drug companies, the hospitals, the labor unions, AMA, AARP, etc., [with] no one making sure that all the separate demands fit together in a sensible way.” 
Sound familiar to you?  It does to me.  James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock worked out the science of this half a century ago in The Calculus of Consent.  Talk about settled science!  In any voting system, they found, the proponents of a measure to spend public funds usually discover that they don't have enough votes for passage.  The reason is quite simple: apart from the proponents the rest of the voting population don't see any benefit for them in the proposal.  So the proponents of the measure have to buy the votes they need for passage from some of the voters that don't see any benefit for themselves.

Right at the end of The Calculus of Consent, after considering every voting system under the sun, Buchanan and Tullock finally present the voting system of unanimous consent, the startling idea that if government is going to do anything it ought to be forced to get the support of everyone that will be affected by the measure. Unanimous consent is great, according to Buchanan and Tullock, because it forces the proponents to pay for the costs that the opponents would be forced to submit to as the price of passing the proposal.  Can you spell J-U-S-T-I-C-E?

So here's the medium-term strategy for conservatives and Republicans.  If Congress wants to pass a measure to increase force – from tax increases to entitlement increases – then it should need a supermajority in both houses to pass legislation.  If Congress wants to reduce force, with tax cuts or deregulation, why then the maximum needed should be a bare majority.  Wait: here's a better idea.  A measure to reduce taxes or government compulsion should only require a simple majority vote of either house of Congress, subject only to the combined veto of the president and a supermajority of the other house.

Hey liberals!  If you are looking for an example of true right-wing extremism to sink your teeth into, you just read it.

We conservative responsible individualists are simple folk.  All we want is to stop the cruel and unjust externalities of free-stuff politics, and the way to do that is by changing the rules of the game to make it more difficult to buy votes and play redistribution.

We know that the world has plenty of genuine victims, and we feel genuine compassion about real suffering.  But if you professional victims want some cool benefit, then you and your patrons ought to have to pay for it.  Remember this: there is nothing in the world stopping sensitive and compassionate people from freely spending their own money to relieve the pain of genuine victims.

There are two ways of making your way in the world.  One way is the way of the predator that takes what he wants by force.  The other way is the human way of barter and exchange, of figuring out how to make some product or service that other people want and exchange it for something you want, with each human figuring out how to serve other people is a node in the buzzing network of the collective mind.

All we conservatives are saying is that if we want to fix what has gone wrong in America, the answer can be found by accentuating the positive of the collective mind, and eliminating the negative of force and its collective mindlessness.

And don't mess with Mr. In Between!

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