More Thoughts on Metaphors
By Arnold Kling
We can no more fix an economy than we can fix a rainforest or a coral reef.
Another key issue regarding metaphors concerns what is the correct metaphor for government. For libertarians, government is like a Mafia Godfather, carrying out a protection racket. It is a criminal organization that controls certain economic activities through the use of force. It obtained its status by ruthlessly stamping out competitors.
To someone on the left, government is more like the adult supervision at a day care center. It sets the rules, provides structure, and prevents what otherwise would be dangerous behavior and chaos.
I think of government as a monopoly offering lousy service and determined to maintain and extend its franchise come hell or high water. Imagine General Motors or Microsoft or Blue Cross or Comcast with no competition whatsoever for consumers to choose from, and not even the ability to opt out of driving or personal computing or health insurance or cable TV.
I also see government in terms of insiders and outsiders. My influence there is Murray Edelman (as well as my late father, Merle Kling). When today’s WaPo calls the deficit deal The Triumph of Old Washington, I nod my head in agreement. The outsiders get symbolic victories, and the insiders get the real win.
Ordinarily, you expect the insiders to know what they are doing, with the outsiders being crazy. The problem is that on the budget, it may very well be the insiders who are crazy, for conducting business on a day-to-day basis with a budget that blows up over the medium term.
[UPDATE: A reader forwards a link to Eric Voeten, who cites a finding by Keith Poole that the opponents of the debt ceiling bill were anti-establishment types in both parties. My guess is that the TARP vote broke similarly. ]