Why Only Bush Could Bring Socialism to America
By Bryan Caplan
Recent events remind me of Cowen and Sutter’s 1998’s article on “Why Only Nixon Could Go to China.” From the abstract: “Right-wing politicians sometimes can implement policies that left-wing politicians cannot, and vice versa. Contemporary wisdom has it that ‘only Nixon could have gone to China.’ The authors develop a model to explain this phenomenon.”
Now Cowen and Sutter have a functionalist model where everythings happen for a good reason. But we can easily drop this Panglossian baggage. Let’s suppose there is an Inane Policy that party X tends to favor. If party X pushes for it, though, party Y will make a big stink about it, and the Inane Policy will blow up in party X’s face. So what hope does the Inane Policy have of coming to pass? Not much – unless party Y decides to give the Inane a chance.
I suspect that’s what we’re seeing now. If a Democratic president were backing a $700B bail-out, I have to think that Republicans would be crying “Socialism!” But if a Republican president does the same, the bail-out’s natural enemies keep silent out of loyalty or ingroup bias. It’s a lot like the contemporary Republican reaction to Nixon’s price controls – if our boy is doing it, how bad can it be?
The scary thing is that once party Y gives the Inane a chance, party X may be able to finish the job without credible resistance. After party Y surrenders the rhetorical high ground by embracing the Inane, what’s to stop party X from making Inanity a way of life?