This thought-provoking observation appeared in comments:
We have national consensus on a whole host of issues, some growing out of our constitution, some not. We have remarkably durable consensus favoring relatively free markets, relatively limited government, individual liberty, the notion of equality as an expanding circle encompassing ever more segments of the population, a belief in progress, a belief in optimism, in self-expression, innovation, in a strong defense, in an obligation to help other nations in times of crisis.
I think there’s a consensus about some of those things but not all and there’s certainly no consensus about what some of those things mean.
I recall a poll taken some time ago in which a majority of Americans, when confronted with the Bill of Rights out of context, were deeply opposed to some or all of its contents.
Although we’ve maintained somewhat free markets within our borders and between states, we’ve also had tariffs on imports from other countries, sometimes steep tariffs. I don’t believe there’s ever been a consensus for free markets here. We’ve just redefined what a free market is to fit what we do have a consensus about.
While I agree that there once was a consensus that the United States should maintain a strong defense, I’m less convinced that there’s a consensus now or, at least, that there’s a consensus about what it means to have a strong defense.
While I do believe that all but a very small number of Americans, quite enough to constitute a consensus, believe that the country should be defended if it should be invaded, I think that a significantly smaller number believe that we should be prepared to fight to defend our interests overseas. Some believe that humanitarian intervention abroad is part of our national defense; other disagree.
I also think that there are some subjects about which we’re schizophrenic, largely on a NIMBY basis. One of those things is educating the children of the poor. Public education is largely funded on the basis of property taxes and, in some cases, by sales taxes, both of which are highly localized. If you move away from the central city and do most of your shopping outside of the central city, you may be in favor of educating the children of the poor in theory but in practice, you’re opposed to it—exactly the sort of cognitive dissonance I’m talking about.
In my view there is no national consensus on healthcare reform (I’ve outlined my views here most recently); it’s one of those schizophrenic issues and if anything we’re moving farther from consensus rather than closer to it.
Is there a national political consensus? What is its form? On what subjects is there consensus?
That’s the truth. I believe in a strong defense, but in my opinion, a strong defense means being able to defend the United States from foreign invasion–not the United States’ ability to occupy foreign countries for nebulous reasons.
“If you move away from the central city and do most of your shopping outside of the central city, you may be in favor of educating the children of the poor in theory but in practice, you’re opposed to it—exactly the sort of cognitive dissonance I’m talking about.”
Oh, I don’t know. Rather, you might rightfully observe that the quality of education in the central city is driven by social malformations quite apart from school money, and desire that your child not be contaminated by other’s irresponsibility.
They used to teach readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic with only a dime. Let’s not confuse school money with the sociological cesspool that the central cities have become.
BTW – Love the new format.
I’m going for both cosmetics and legibility. These old eyes had problems with my old fonts.
I received a moment of clarity this morning on health care. Ezra Klein explained the importance of the public option to progressives was that they simply did not trust the profit motive. Immediately, a Venn diagram formed in my mine with one-third of Americans distrusting business; one-third of of Americans distrusting government and one-third of Americans distrusting both. The consensus is . . .
(I’m being somewhat fecisious, but trust issues are the most difficult to negotiate around and arguably the only way to address them is to give color to the concern and protect against it.)
Yikes, I’m not sure what feces I might be full of, but I meant facetious.
Spell check is your friend (sometimes).
Spell check is your friend (sometimes).
Spell check is your friend (sometimes).
There is no consensus that you’re full of feces.
I don’t take consensus to be unanimity, and I don’t think we all have to agree on the reasons we end up agreeing on certain actions. I may have very different reasons for supporting a strong defense than someone else does, but we’d both vote the same way.
Most people have a religious element to their beliefs, I don’t, but we might both agree that we need to provide medical care to the poor. And we may have very different levels of enthusiasm.
But right now, to take one example, while there are different opinions on Afghanistan, I’d say there’s a consensus, albeit a consensus by inattention.
But as Adam Smith noted it is the profit motive that puts food on the table, a roof over their heads, a car in the driveway, and clothes on them. The implicit level of trust is staggering, but when asked to considering trusting the profit motive in another area, it is no good.
Why don’t these people agitate for anarcho-syndicalist communes where they each take turns to be a sort of executive officer for the week, but where all the decisions have to ratified at a special bi-weekly meeting by a simply majority in the case of purely internal affairs, but by a two-thirds majority in the case of….
There is a heavy dose of cognitive dissonance all around. There are the well-publicized comments by people opposed to a public option because it is “socialism,” yet love their medicare. Then there is the other side which wants a single payer system, yet demands a “public option” because that would provide “competition” for the insurance companies.
Steve-Adam Smith wrote a second book. That kid of explains why people do not trust business, notice business instead of capitalism, so much.
Adam Smith also noted that governments shouldn’t grant corporate charters and that the government had a role in making sure that people weren’t trapped in menial jobs that would stunt their intellectual development.
You really think I’m in favor of government granting corporate charters? Seriously?
Yes, I’ve read parts of the Theory of Moral Sentiments. And I agree, we shouldn’t trust business to do anything other than to seek profits, but for precisely the reason noted by Adam Smith, they’ll conspire to be anti-competitive (i.e. drive up prices and thus profits). How will they do this? Well the easiest way is to get the government to do it for them. Which leaves a person like Ezra in a real bind. He wants an activist government, but only so long as he approves of it. But it doesn’t usually work that way.
Case in point: Disney.
Not too long ago Disney’s copyrights on Mickey was about to expire. This would mean anyone could make a Mickey Mouse hat (shirt, doll, poster, video, whatever…). Disney saw that they’d lose a huge amount of revenues and profits. So what did they do? Hire Sonny Bono the late Congressman from Palm Springs. He got legislation (sometimes called the Mickey Mouse Protection Act) passed extending the monopoly Disney held on its intellectual property and also Bono’s own intellectual property (talk about corruption).
Classic case of rent seeking (i.e. seeking unearned profits) and really for nothing in return. Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Donald Duck, and Bono’s songs had already been created. Thus you can’t argue that such goods wouldn’t have come into existence without the law. So it was basically a scam to get more money from consumers into the coffers of Disney and Bono’s own bank account.
But yet so many pie in the sky progressives look to the government to do good. They’ll ignore things like the copyright extension act doesn’t exist or ignore it. After all, Bono was a Republican! A Democrat would never do that (although I’m sure many Democrats voted in favor of the legislation and President Clinton signed it…but forget that, these are not the droids you seek). I know, I know, I’m evil. I don’t like government, and I prefer markets. But at least I don’t have to spend my time trying to come up with self-delusional nonsense as to why being a progressive really is so swell.
I could chime in, but Verdon’s got it.
It never ceases to amaze me how some people think government will “do the right thing” when it comes to regulating business or running certain enterprises………..like the Post Office.
And then the same people squeal like stuck pigs about the way government runs the Defense Department. Those greedy, incompetant, wasteful and inefficient dolts………
“Classic case of rent seeking (i.e. seeking unearned profits) and really for nothing in return.”
Well that bad genie is, at this juncture in our history, well and truly out of the bottle. BTW, was there ever a time in our history that some business or other did not engage in rent seeking? I think not. The very first piece of substantial legislation passed by the very first Congress was the Tarrif Act of 1789 (signed into law by President Washington on July 4, 1789–there’s some kind of irony in that). Government and business have worked hand in hand from the get-go. Big government, small government, makes no difference–rents will always be sought and found.
It is not a matter of being evil. It is simply acknowledging that as businesses get larger, they tend to become subject to the same disruptions as government. The right tends to blindly trust business and assume that markets are the solution to everything (hyperbole acknowledged). You cite Disney. Should we cite Enron?
Taking an historical perspective, things like corporations are relatively new. Corporations that are run by professional managers newer. International corporations that have debts larger than the countries they are based, even newer. These businesses have the power to affect the whole economy, in a positive and a negative manner. People trying to maximize personal gains, are in a position to bring financial ruin upon millions. They do this while behaving in a rational manner, economically rational. They are maxxing profits absent any moral compunction.
Hence, I think we are still trying to figure out, or should be, where government works and does not work. Where private enterprise works and does not. Look at China and Europe. If government involvement is bad, Europe and China should not be valid economic competitors for us, yet they have been closing the gap that we gained from WWII. It really looks to me as though some counterbalance to the creative destruction of capitalism is a necessary part of a strong economy.
Anyway, in particulars like health care, I think markets might work, but I see big holes that worry me. I would feel much better if I had a working system to to look at. That is why I continue to hope for a state exemption that would let individual states experiment. Conservatives should be pushing for that IMHO.