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Sunday, March 4, 2012

Time To Get Rid Of Political Parties?

I was at my book club recently discussing Stiglitz's "Freefall."   We were discussing page 207 and the common conservative argument that if markets fail, government can fail worse.   The section talks about 'false choices' between market and government and makes the valid point that government will always be involved in so-called 'market' transactions be it with regulations, monetary policy, etc.  

I made the point that while Stiglitz mentions it as a problem, he really doesn't expand upon the idea that our politics are broken to the point where it puts up real barriers to good policy (he actually mentions it but then after 2 sentences proceeds to ignore it).  So, we might hope to educate our children in a more pluralistic way but that education alone may not be able to make a dent where it really matters (policy making).  

The argument my group made to that point is that in the private 'market', leaders of business are often the decision makers and they have no real incentive to improve the social order, but government might - at least have the incentive to evolve toward improvement.  But again I say, we ignore the institution of our politics at our own peril.  Just like individual businesses make decision in the private economy, individual political parties make the decisions for our government - it's not even the individual politician.  They are often granted seats on important committees and other favors by the leaders of their party - provided they do what they are supposed to - which is vote a certain way, which largely is to keep the party alive, not to improve society.  

Here's a common theme.  Party A enacts a policy, and it succeeds in some areas and fails in others at correcting market failures.  Party B, to ensure it's party's survival, takes a counterpoint to Party A's position - focusing on blaming all failures on Party A.   Lost in the discussion and the media is the fact that some of the failures perhaps were or could have been worse had Party A not enacted its policy.  Party B gets elected, eliminates Party A's policy, and we are back to step 1 again. 

 This seems to be the cycle the US political machine is stuck in in modern times.  Whether it's financial reforms, health care, or just blame for the economic situation in general - lost are the real issues, replaced by party fighting and spin.  

So, even if our economics discussion become more realistic, it would seem we need to simultaneously focus on changing our politics.   Is it time to eliminate the idea of party?  What purpose do they serve in our modern times other than to provide powerful bickering and a large infrastructure to invite powerful lobbies.  Would we not be better served by each politician versus each other politician - turning our politics more local ?  This argument is not new, but it also to date has not been very convincing.  So I invite you all:  Why keep our party system as is?  Or, if you agree we need a major change, how can we go about it?


However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.
GEORGE WASHINGTON, Farewell Address, Sep. 17, 1796

7 comments:

asif said...

nice post.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points. Have you read "Business as Usual" by Paul Mattick or "Winner Take All Politics" by Hacker and Pearson? They point to dysfunctional politics as the problem and not the solution, but have hope without eliminating the parties. I think your idea is better--eliminate the herd mentalities of these politicians. The party mentalities have gotten so narrow, there is no independent thinking. Plus, you get "outsiders" in the process like Grover Norquist
forcing Republicans to sign "no tax pledges" and all that nonsense-Norquist is not accountable to anybody--let alone the voters. Republicans could still "sign the pledge," but they could not hide behind party politics.

George DeMarse

Springerylvh said...

Excellent points. Have you read "Business as Usual" by Paul Mattick or "Winner Take All Politics" by Hacker and Pearson? They point to dysfunctional politics as the problem and not the solution, but have hope without eliminating the parties. I think your idea is better--eliminate the herd mentalities of these politicians. The party mentalities have gotten so narrow, there is no independent thinking. Plus, you get "outsiders" in the process like Grover Norquist forcing Republicans to sign "no tax pledges" and all that nonsense-Norquist is not accountable to anybody--let alone the voters. Republicans could still "sign the pledge," but they could not hide behind party politics. George DeMarse

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