Archive for November 1st, 2010

I don’t know if “be careful what you wish for” is actually an ancient Chinese proverb, but it does apply to this year’s mid-term elections. Most of my GOP friends are very happy about the expected takeover of the House of Representatives, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that there will be enough big wins in Senate races to capture that chamber as well.

I certainly agree that Pelosi, Reid, et al, are a bunch of statists and that they deserve to lose, but that’s not the same as thinking that Republicans deserve to win. The GOP leaders in the House and Senate, after all, are mostly the same crowd that voted for bigger government and more intervention during the Bush years. Is there any reason to think that they’ve had epiphanies and now genuinely believe in freedom?

But even if you think that Boehner, McConnell and the rest of the Republicans now have their hearts in the right place, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be good for Republicans to re-take Congress. Let’s walk through the upsides and downsides.

The biggest upside, as noted above, is that the current crop of Democrats would lose. I realize it’s not nice to enjoy the misery of others, but I would take great pleasure in watching Reid and Pelosi eating crow tomorrow night as they discuss big Democratic defeats. In the same spirit, I would be happy that so many evil people would be sad, particularly the global warming fanatics and the government employee union bosses.

But I don’t think better public policy will be one of the upsides. Even if Republicans somehow win the Senate, it takes 60 votes to make big changes. That obviously won’t happen. Moreover, Obama surely would veto any reforms to shrink the burden of government.

This is a perfect segue to a discussion of the downsides of a GOP victory. One of those downsides, which already was mentioned, is that Republicans need more time in the wilderness to purge the big-government virus that ran rampant during the Bush years.

But the bigger concern is that Republican victories this year might reduce the odds for big wins in 2012. If the GOP takes full or partial control of Congress, that means they also will be at least somewhat responsible for anything that happens between now and the 2012 elections. And Obama, aided and abetted by the establishment press, will blame any bad news on Republicans.

This is the worst of all worlds. You don’t have the power to actually change policy, but you have enough power that people will blame you if they don’t like the results.

This is why the best result, from a long-term GOP perspective, is to win lots of seats, but to leave Democrats in charge of both the House and Senate. If Republicans wind up with 215 seats in the House and 49 seats in the Senate, that will be more than enough to block Obama from imposing additional bad policies (especially with the Senate filibuster). But Republicans won’t be in the difficult position of having illusory power to make changes.

And if everything goes well, this would put them in a position to enjoy big gains in 2012. That means winning the White House and capturing both chambers of Congress with big majorities.

That would please Republicans, but some of us are concerned about better public policy rather than partisan politics. So the goal is not to get more Republicans, but rather to get a Reagan-type person elected to the White House at same time that a 1994-style GOP Congress is elected.

As I’ve explained before, America is on a pre-determined path to being a European welfare state. Preventing that tragic result will require real control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. That might happen in 2012, but it will be less likely if the GOP takes over Congress in 2010. Food for thought.

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Libertarian Porn

Several people have sent me the video embedded below. It’s more than one-hour long, so it’s not for the faint at heart. I categorize this video in a special new genre that I’ll call libertarian porn. This isn’t a negative (or positive) observation, but watch at least some of the video and then see my explanation below.

I call this libertarian porn because it is designed for the dark enjoyment of people who think the government is destroying the nation.  If you don’t like bloated government and statist intervention and you think that the policies being imposed by Washington are going to lead to hyperinflation and societal collapse, then you will get a certain level of grim satisfaction by watching the video.

Since I don’t like bloated government and statist intervention, I obviously like many of the points in the video. That being said, I think it is too dour about the long-run outlook. Big government presumably can lead to societal collapse, with Greece perhaps being an example of a nation heading in that direction. But it’s also likely that big government may be sustainable, albeit at a heavy cost of slower growth and lower living standards. Sweden is a good example of this type of society. It’s not what I want, but it’s not on the verge of breakdown.

To be sure, there is the wild card of hyperinflation. The video assumes that monetary policy will get more reckless in the future, and even the most stable society can be turned upside down if the government destroys the medium of exchange. But it’s unlikely that America is on that path. I’m not a fan of Ben Bernanke, but even I don’t think the Fed will copy the mistakes of places such as Argentina and Zimbabwe.

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