Wednesday, November 03, 2010

What's wrong with gridlock?

There was a segment on Nightline and it was a running subtheme on all the TV news I caught election night, and while I had to do some writing, it was part of the job also to switch among news channels fairly regularly. The Nightline segment tonight wondered whether Barack Obama and incoming Speaker John Boehner wold be able to find common ground, and ended with the ever-vapid Terry Moran saying we should all hope so? Should we? Is it good for the American people when politicians from the two major parties get along so they can "do things for the people," i.e., spend a lot of the taxpayers' money? I would argue that we do much better when there's gridlock.
The politicians and most of the media want to perpetuate the myth that, as arch-conservative Willimoore Kendall once put it in a debate, "Nothing happens when nothing happens in Washington." To the contrary, as Kevin Hassett documented, when we have divided government the economy generally does better -- and the American voters seem to know this on some kind of instinctive Jungian level, because they've given us divided government 70% of the time since 1970. When government is gridlocked, you can be fairly certain no large-scale new initiatives will be passed, so people doing business and engaging in other productive activities can be reasonably certain they won't have new swarms of bureaucrats eating out their substance, at least for a while, and they can act productively.
I'm not saying voters have worked this all out intellectually, but there seems to be an understanding that gridlock is good. The politicians and media have to work overtime to try to obfuscate this instinct and try to convince us that when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party get together to do something both stupid and evil it's really constructive bipartisanship and we sheeple should be pleased to see them getting along so splendidly. (Not original with me. I first heard that at a Ron Paul rally, I forget by which speaker, around the time of the 2008 GOP convention when the party showed Ron just how much it appreciated his stirring up enthusiasm nobody had seen before about limited government.)

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