Saturday, September 01, 2012

I've joined millions of Americans in abandoning party politics. My question is, now what?

I'm cross-posting this excerpt from my Google+ page because it touches on themes that have been central to this blog recently. J1 and J2 will probably discuss the strengths and weaknesses of these ideas in an upcoming post.


Today I heard a great interview with author Doug Wead who said that America's real political divide is no longer left vs. right. Instead, it's inside vs. outside. I like that idea. It fixes what's wrong with Occupy Wall Street's slogan "We are the 99%" because it doesn't center on income levels (which aren't necessarily a good indicator of corruption). In this new view, the 99% are the people who are outside the system and the 1% are the people who are inside the system.

Who are the insiders? Many of America's political and megacorporate leaders. They help each other. (But that goes without saying.) This situation is even clearer to me after reading Neil Barofsky's book Bailout, which I just finished. Barofsky, who was the inspector general for TARP, recounts how both political parties worked hard to give bailout money to those inside the system at the expense of those outside the system. It's depressing.

My personal political platform is pro-transparency, pro-simplicity, and pro-dispersion of power. That is, I'm a big fan of economist Luigi Zingales's theory that abstruse and complex laws breed cronyism because corporations can hire lobbyists to write loopholes into the laws—loopholes that the public can't readily understand. The same thing happens when power gets too concentrated: lobbyists only need to buy off a handful of politicians on a certain committee to get a law written in their favor.

Just look at the complexity of a bill like Dodd-Frank and ask yourself whether there's a chance that insiders have had a heyday with it (see, especially, the two charts near the middle): "Too big not to fail: Flaws in the confused, bloated law passed in the aftermath of America’s financial crisis become ever more apparent".

Transparency, simplicity, and a healthy dispersion of power would be a step in the right direction. 


For more on Zingales's theory, listen to this Planet Money segment and this EconTalk interview—both of which I've listened to twice because they're awesome.

Relevant USA Today article: "Voters are leaving Republican, Democratic parties in droves"

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