If the people can only choose from amongst scoundrels, they are sure to choose a scoundrel.
-- V.O. Key
Most elections are a choice between Bum A and Bum B.
-- Curtis Sliwa
Gail, as a result of the phenomenon of political irrationality (principally driven by partisan bias), both liberals and conservatives fail to perceive the overlap between their parties’ respective approaches to the size of government.
Conservatives have repeatedly contradicted themselves by increasing the size and expense of government (Bush and Reagan’s military buildups) while Liberals have contradicted themselves by reducing the size and scope of government (Clinton’s welfare and deficit-reduction initiatives).
The conservative economist and social philosopher Friedrich von Hayek built a persuasive case that government power tends inevitably toward inefficiency and corruption. However, the recent global financial collapse has shown us the perils of too little government and insufficient regulation. Therefore, we should not be simplistically making assumptions that big government is liberal and good, or that small government is conservative and bad. Rather, we should seek the optimal size of government to deal with particular social problems, taking into account the extent of market failure that has created a need for a government intervention in the first place.
In other words, we should all learn to look at political issues on a case-by-case basis, rather than through the simple reflex of adopting a so-called liberal or conservative position.
Sometimes big government is needed (the CDC, W.H.O., FDA, etc — who would want to live without them?), while in other cases it leads predictably to abuses (the military-industrial complex has been looting our treasury for decades).
What’s the answer?
Citizen oversight. Just as we have grand juries to oversee the conduct of our prosecutors, we need legislative and administrative juries to oversee the conduct of our political representatives and their appointees.
This concept has been developed substantially by scholars such as James Fishkin and Ned Crosby. We can never trust politicians to root out the corruption because the political system is based on overpowering incentives for politicians to lie and cheat.
Trusting politicians to stop taking suspect campaign contributions is like asking athletes to stop taking steroids — naive. It’s not going to happen.
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