Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Romney's Sell-Out Potential

"Given the increasingly likelihood that Romney is on his way to the GOP nomination," Steven Hayward has begun "Deconstructing Romney" over at Power Line. The theme of his first post contemplates his hope that, while Romney is far from a conservative star, "maybe he'll sell out to us."

It's a somewhat sad commentary on the times that the conservative movement must hope that our soon-to-be standard-bearer will betray his ostensible principles and pursue conservative policies. Obama was a far-left liberal who pretended to be a moderate during the campaign and subsequently governed as a far-left liberal. Nothing surprising there. Romney is a moderate running as a conservative - the manner of his actual governance is completely open to speculation.

Hayward (and the writers to whom he links) has a plausible argument that Romney will stay the rightward course. But wouldn't it be nice if we didn't need to speculate over plausible arguments?

Categories > Elections

Discussions - 22 Comments

What I'd like to know is where are these moderate voters coming from? Are these primaries open? How do we keep getting stuck with RINOs?

How do we keep getting stuck with RINOs?

You do not. There really is very little element of deliberation or peer review in these contests; Republican Party grandees are not doing this to you. This is where participation by the 10% or so of the adult population who cast ballots in Republican primaries and caucuses leads you. This particular donnybrook and the last, with four significant contestants each, have been the most competitive (bar one) since primary campaigns began to dispace deliberation and peer review among bosses.

If you want a working politician who articulates an aspirationi to restore the political economy of 1929 or some such (i.e. Taft, Goldwater, or Reagan), you need to recall the following:

--The years no such candidate presented himself (1956, 1960, 1972, 2004)

--The years when a competitor fitting that description was a publicist running a demonstration campaign and working politicians fitting that description were ignored by Republican voters if they presented themselves at all (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000)

--The years when a working politician fitting that description was running something up the flagpole (1968, 2008).

--The years when a competitive candidate fitting that description was considered and rejected by the Republican electorate (1952, 1976).

Messrs. Romney, McCain, Bush-fils, Dole, and Bush-pere are not 'RINOs'. They are what a Republican presidential candidate looks like.

Maybe the Democrat "reform" that changed the presidential nominating rules from rule by politicians to citizen activists was not such a good idea, after all. See my column on this:


OK, fair enough -- I guess I'm not a Republican then. If the best the GOP can do is run "tax collectors for the welfare state," then screw them. It's time for people like me to start voting for what we want, and maybe the GOP will wake up after Democrats have completely dominated the country for a few election cycles. There is absolutely no reason for solid conservatives to continually take a backseat to useful idiots.

As for your snarky comment about 1929, the various levels of government in this country consume 40% of our entire economic output. Do you think we get our money's worth? If you do, you're a fool. At a time when our "role-models" in Europe are just about under water, snotty comments about being old-fashioned are both ironic and silly. The fact is, "big" government is hitting the wall -- there's no place to go. Much higher taxes will lead to revolt or massive exodus/cheating, and more debt will destroy them. The parasites are killing the host. Any civilization that channels this much productive effort towards paper-pushing and subsidy will ultimately collapse.

I'm not anti-government (indeed, I hate simple-minded libertarians), but the balance must be restored. If the GOP can't get the job done, then we must look elsewhere.

It was not a 'snarky comment', it was an attempt at reference which would give a precise idea of what the goal was. There is a distinction between a politicians' recommendations regarding policy in the here and now, the menu of policies a politician favors, and the aspiration set out in the politician's rhetoric. Messrs. Reagan and Goldwater spoke as if the aspirational goal was to dismantle the bureaucratic architecture of central government erected after 1929 (bar the proportionately larger military). In truth, strict adherence to the black letter delegations in Article I of the federal constitution would require something much like that. (That would not rule out social democratic measures. It is just that they would have to be enacted (in Mr. Reagan's familiar trope) "at the state and local level"). Other Republican politicians do not speak that way, for good or ill.

If you be interested, and as far as I am concerned,

1. State enterprises should be limited to local water works, hydroelectric power, and mass transit (which is really more of a social service in most areas nowadays).

2. Economic planning should be limited to issues of land use and the placement of public works.

3. Capital allocation by the state should be limited to public works and the knock-on effects of public expenditure.

4. Primary and secondary schooling should be run by philanthropic institutions funded by vouchers, donations, and endowment income; the only public schools should be run by the local sheriff for incorrigibles no one else wants; tertiary education should be private and receive no public subsidy.

5. Common provision of purchasable services and income redistribution should be circumscribed to a particular share of domestic product and not include either subsidies to mundane expenditure or long-term cash doles for people who are neither elderly nor disabled. It would be permissible to extend a net tax rebate to the impecunious, so long as all sectors of the population face the same marginal rate on their income.

6. Neither commercial companies nor philanthropies should receive any subsidies through grants or through concessionary tax rates; indirect subventions extended through insurance and voucher programs to the clients of certain economic sectors (medicine and allied trades, primary and secondary schooling, custodial care, legal services, &c.) would be permissible, however.

7. Intergovernmental transfers of revenue should be limited to unrestricted grants distributed formulaically. If the central government has a mind to perform a particular function, it should construct and fund an agency to do it, not manipulate or compel local governments to do it.

8. Public budgets should be balanced over the course of the business cycle (i.e. about two years out of three), except during banking crises or wars of general mobilization. Between 1953 and 2008, the sum added to the central government’s nominal public debt should have been nil.

9. State regulation of labor relations should be concerned with proper adherence to contracts and understandings (e.g. payment of wages in a timely fashion), the actuarial soundness of pension plans, and some safety and health provisions. The state should not mandate compensation rates (other than overtime ratios and a proforma minimum wage) nor should it mandate benefits other than some leave time. Company unions should be the only recognized collective bargaining agents.

10. The ideal number of guest workers imported should equal the ideal number of visa issued for companies to transfer foreign hires to the United States: zero. We admit a quota of people over the globe who demonstrate an affinity for our country by learning our language. When they arrive here, they settle and work at whatever trade they are able to and prefer.

That, sir, is not a European model.

The country in which we live is an international hegemon. Ergo, our propensity to spend on the military exceeds that of most (a mean of 7.8% of domestic product per annum over the last 80-odd years). That has some knock-on effects (as regards our spending on veterans’ care). Also, aspects of our formation as a society have given us a tendency toward abnormally high crime rates and that is properly addressed through a comparatively large apparat of police and prisons. We have had also structural faults in the financing of medical care over the last 70 years which have left us with a technically competent but bloated and inefficient sector and it will take some decades to repair that. These social facts mean that it is advisable that we put more into our public sector than some other country (say, Finland or Japan) would have to in order to to achieve similar levels of social amenity. I believe the premium would amount to about 10% of domestic product. Over time, I believe public expenditure in this country might be (optimally) about 36% of domestic product. In our own time, expenditures on the military and veterans’ care are lower than the mean of the last eight decades. However, we have severe interest charges on our public debt and deficits to finance in our public pension funds.

I agree with much of what you say, although I've gathered from your past comments that your taste for social welfare is higher than mine. Yet it is the social programs that are breaking us more than any other single type of expenditure. In principle, I agree that old folks and the disabled must be accommodated, but having the government do it invites corruption and inefficiency. I think it needs to be redesigned, perhaps forcing people to save their own money for retirement (yea, a mandate...I'm down with that, and it's the one aspect of Obamacare that didn't immediately infuriate me). We have to reintroduce self-responsibility in this country (I'd say family responsibility, but we've damned near killed marriage/family in the Western world). Forcing people to be their "brother's keeper" is the road to serfdom. To be virtuous, charity must be voluntary, and anything short of that is slavery (yea, I know, I sound like an Objectivist or something, but what else to do you call toiling involuntarily for the benefit of others?).

Government welfare/income distribution is a slippery slope - it teaches people envy and entitlement. Ultimately, I think society will decide that such subsidies just aren't beneficial on a mass scale (but that will come after the collapse). 36% of our production?? Why is this the magic number? And how in the world can you pull the hog from the trough once his snout's firmly ensconced?

It is not a magic number. It is my attempt at comprehending the size of the public sector given our history and the pattern of our social relations. Other countries could get by with less. Here is my conception of the composition of that:

7.8%: military
1.5%: veterans' benefits
0.8%: foreign relations, divers
0.8%: police, prisons, tax collection, inspectorates &c.
1.2%: unemployment compensation & Job Corps
1.0%: miscellaneous*

Federal or state:
4.3%: medical insurance
1.9%: long-term care insurance**

4.4%: school vouchers
2.0%: police, prisons, and courts
1.3%: miscellaneous***

3.5%: police, courts, and jails
0.3%: child protective and foster care
0.5%: miscellaneous****

2.5%: public works and amenities
0.2%: miscellaneous*****

*civil defense, parks, public works, petty welfare programs (e.g. refugee resettlement) &c.
**'care' in a variety of settings (nursing homes, asylums, group homes, &c.)
***public works, regulatory inspectorates, parks, petty welfare programs (e.g. public defender and legal aid), intramural services
****public works, mass transit, intramural services
*****intramural services

Not listed:

-Social Security: (ideally converted to a defined contribution program, thus off the books)

-debt service (depends on what we have borrowed, one hopes very little)

-rebates to those with a negative tax liability (you will give me a hard time)

-mandatory sequestrations (for household medical expenses and long-term care expenses)

Well, I give you credit, you've actually thought this through. It's plausible, although I think a third of the economy going to government is still a little high. The main problem, of course, is how to actually limit spending (which has been the problem all along). What you are calling for would probably require a Constitutional amendment process. Alas, I think we're too close to Rand Paul's "tipping point" (when dependents outnumber taxpayers) for that to ever happen. If even the GOP can't manage to produce candidates that understand fiscal constraint, then nothing short of debacle will force a rethinking on this issue. From your own comments on what Republican candidates are actually like, there's very little hope short of fiscal meltdown (and even then, I don't hold out much hope).

You are right, it is high, because my back of the envelope calculations were based on what the state, county, and municipal governments are spending where I grew up. New York as a whole is an affluent state and the nexus of interests propelling public spending is strong (Upstate New York, however, has a personal income per capita slightly below the national mean).

(I erred in my breakdown of the spending of municipal government. Municipal governments have a regulatory component (tax collectors and building inspectors), provide rescue services (ambulences) and have gencies which do some of both (the fire department and the pound). These are not 'amenities').

So, yes, you can shave off some by bringing the compensation of public employees closer to earth (by replacing defined benefit pension plans, for starters). You can run through the budgets of legitimate public agencies line by line looking for hinky programs. What I have been doing in examining public budgets is finding manifest crap piles (patronage pipelines to subsidiary governments and philanthropies, subsidies to people's mundane expenditures, programs readily and properly devolved, &c).

This is a nice argument to read. AD, I think you missed a lot of things, in various areas of government. You can be forgiven; the list is long, already.

Naah. What you're not seeing is what's cut.

I suppose you do have your miscellaneous and hinky program categories, that could encompass just about anything (esp. hinky). Currently, I am on the board of our county library. I cannot think of it as a hinky program, although I happy with some of what it funds, like video games. In connection with that, I am learning all about the county, including about county government and public agencies like those of health and human services. It is overwhelming. However, I would prefer to see the money spent here, rather than going away and coming back, paying various levels of bureaucrats along the way.

Ours is a fairly affluent county (people who work in our local factories can rarely afford to live here) and it does a lot with the money it takes in. The only facility I have toured so far that made me roll my eyes is an elaborate emergency facility, first built in 1984, expanded and improved since and -- get this -- has never really been used. It has been in continuous operation, and is kept neatly up to date with computers and communication devices and the latest in emergancy equipement. They geared up on 9/11, just in case, and have helped a bit with some regional flooding incidents, working alongside other departments in the field. The set-up looks like it might work; the officials in charge have certainly had time to think about their emergency plans. Once a month, department heads (sheriff, fire chiefs, like that) show up for a planning meeting that sounds very clubby and congenial.

The nuclear power plant in the next county funds much of it, the building, the meetings, the stuff. That means local electric consumers pay for it, except the salaries of the county officials who will participate in case of a real emergency and the handful who run the place (I don't want to think about their pensions). In case of an emergency, say involving the nuclear power plant, the materiel and personnel to address the problem is here. No waiting for FEMA to wake up, though FEMA is involved. I think I like that.

Is it cost-effective? Not if nothing ever goes wrong; it is like a gamble or insurance. When I posed a question along those lines, I was told, "The county does not gamble with the lives of its citizens." Doesn't that sound grand? But it isn't really for us; it is mostly for the citizens of the next county with the nuclear power plant. We can handle a large part of the exodus if there is a problem there. Only a few sparsely populated square miles of our county falls in the danger zone in case of disaster.

Should we cut that? Even the county's part is hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. Is it a hinky program? Maybe, but no one complains about it. In most counties like mine (not the big ones bound up with big-city governments) it would be hard to hide your manifest crap piles. Somebody would notice the stink.

Libraries are municipal amenities. They are included in the above. Whatever the local equivalent of the 'emergency facility' you describe above would be under the heading of 'miscellaneous' in the supposed county budget. Again, the figures for the above were derived from examining the budgets of the municipality and county in which I grew up.

Yes, but our libraries system is a county entity. Maybe that is different from in New York? Our libraries are so popular that they have won tax levies when the school system's levy was defeated. An amenity? I suppose. I have develpped an interest in local government and having met many capable people there, wonder why America prefers to send power to Washington.

The libraries themselves are generally municipal agencies (or philanthropies on occasion) but there are co-operative programs under the aegis of the county government and those formed of public, academic, and special libraries on their own initiative. There are some state standards. The principal library in a metropolitan center will have a designation as a 'central library' and perform functions for the libraries in a multi-county region. What the functions are and how they are funded is obscure to me.

I do remember Manhattan's libraries very fondly. I spent many happy hours in a branch library on York Ave that was all wood and mostly old books and merely blocks from my cockroach-infested, rent-controlled walk-up. Weren't New York City's libraries begun with an endowment?

Ah, here:

But Kate, don't you have a fundamental problem with the possibility that a "poor", lazy person (on welfare) could benefit disproportionately from a taxpayer-funded library, or that same person might be able to borrow (for free!) books that promote thinking that's critical of Christian conservatism or capitalism?

Tell it to Andrew Carnegie.

Why Romney's the perfect GOP candidate:

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