Rants and Raves

Opinion, commentary, reviews of books, movies, cultural trends, and raising kids in this day and age.

Monday, September 03, 2007

It's not the people - it's the system

It's odd, but I've been reading the same political stuff I've been reading for quite some time now - but living and working in D.C. really does give you a different perspective on it.

Of course, coming from Oklahoma gives me a different perspective from the Beltway insiders too.

For example, read any of the stuff about demoralized Republicans by almost anyone at Townhall.com. What emerges was succinctly summed up a long time ago by someone who complained, "There are no conservatives in Washington anymore, just Big Government Republicans" now known by the acronym RINO, Republicans In Name Only.

The fear is that the Republican base, having grown disgusted with the Republicans who once in office cannot keep their snouts out of the trough, will simply stay home on election day.

Of course, it's more complicated than that. The Right side of the electorate is perfectly willing to get their own snouts into it, even as they recognize on an individual level that government is too big, too intrusive and absorbs too much of the wealth produced by the people who actually make stuff, grow stuff, fix stuff and move stuff around.

Gerald Ford described it brilliantly in his inaugural address. Standing next to Carl Albert of Oklahoma (then Speaker of the House) he joked (paraphrased from memory), I freely admit that I have supported many worthy projects for the public good in the district of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and have opposed much unworthy waste of the taxpayers money in the state of Oklahoma.

You can still laugh at that, but these days you do it with a sick feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Congress simply will not control its apetite for pork, and the president will not use his veto. These days the way it seems to work is, when anyone objects to a spending bill the other side simply offers to cut them in on it with some spending in their district.

There are a handful of (mostly) Republican legislators who at least sometimes vote against porkbarrel spending - but how long can they continue when their own constituents are on the receiving end of federal largesse?

It reminds me of the time I absent-mindedly left a dog in my house with a frozen steak thawing on the kitchen counter. When I came back and found the inevitable had happened, I couldn't punish the dog for acting according to his nature.

The genius of the Founding Fathers was in realizing that to keep government in check, you have to work with human nature not against it. You work with it by organizing the incentives, balancing the greed, jealousy and power-lust of the people with the power against each other. That's the not-pretty reality behind the noble phrases "seperation of powers" and "checks and balances".

Well, it's obviously out of balance and I seriously doubt it's going to be fixed by voting out the "bad guys" and voting in the "good guys". (Which is not to say that I don't think some politicos would be much more of a disaster than others.)

What I mean is, the problem is not the people, it's structural.

There has been a lot of thought and some good suggestions about how to tweak the structure: term limits, a line-item veto, sunset laws, ending exemptions from certain laws enjoyed by congresscritturs* - but the constant problem is how to get congress to enact them when they are so clearly opposed to their own self-interest.

* For example, congresscritturs do not have to pay social secutiry taxes, they have their very own pension system.


  • At 10:57 AM, Blogger Jabo said…

    Ah...I just looked at the previous post. Didn't realize you were at Human Events. Interesting. Coulter does a column for them, I think. Anyways, be interesting to watch the progress. It's a great place to get into, though it might track towards the right.

  • At 11:41 AM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    I think it'll be an interesting experience too - except that this is Ground Zero for the no-name nuke that I'd bet money is headed here sometime... when?

    Sometime within the 21st century is all I'll venture. However, a gentleman at the National Press Club Friday said he'd bet within the next 5-10 years.

    And I thought I was a pessimist!

  • At 8:49 AM, Blogger Gilmoure said…

    One of the biggest problem with entrenched government is gerrymandering. Things are now set up so that incumbents are very likely to win election. Is very difficult and very expensive to unseat an incumbent.

  • At 11:52 AM, Blogger Mike said…

    OT, but your "Observations on Arabs" post is now being pawned off as the work of "William Haynes (Col. USAF Ret)" at: http://maggiesfarm.anotherdotcom.com/archives/6161-Multiculturalism-They-dont-think-like-us.html

  • At 12:15 PM, Blogger diafani said…

    Steve, I can't believe you fell for that bullshit:


  • At 2:09 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…


    I had a look and see that they've corrected the attribution.

    Heavy sigh.

    I also see that I'm again accused of over-generalization of the whole Arab world after I specifically said my observations were based solely on my experiences in the Gulf.

  • At 10:54 AM, Blogger gun-totin-wacko said…

    I'm reminded of the closing lines to PJ O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores".

  • At 2:04 PM, Blogger Superdestroyer said…

    I think you will find that in Republicans in Washington have realized that there is just not enough people who will support politicians who want to cut budgets. There is currently no way for any budget cutters to win major office in any state north of virginia and east of the Mississippi.

    The Republicans in DC also know that the long term demographic changes in the U.S. have basically doomed the conservative movement.

    Why do you thik that political operatives are so willing to sell out the middle class for an immigration bill. The middle class is insignificant in poolitics these days.

  • At 6:08 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    "ground zero for the no-name-nuke"

    That's because we want to half-a** fight politically correct "police actions" rife with new-tone rules of engagement to make certain we don't hurt or offend the enemy.
    Can you cite a historical example where a war - or even a battle - was won with this strategy, doctors, nurses, clean water and other endless capitulations?
    We used to have a "Great White Fleet" to protect our interests at home and abroad, but that's been replaced by what I like to call the Great White Money Spigot...
    And it desperately needs to be turned OFF!

  • At 5:39 PM, Blogger Galt-In-Da-Box said…

    I can't believe you buy any of the PC/multiculti/ leftist BS snopes moves.
    I checked into the "golden fleece retirement plan", it's for real. The GAO says so (they should, they have to keep the records).

  • At 9:31 AM, Blogger Vargas said…

    here is the Austrian baron, called Patrick. Remember me? commented on your piece "how i became a writer" dont know if it worked. I am new to blogs

  • At 12:44 PM, Blogger Steve Browne said…

    Good God Patrick, you back in Warsaw?



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