Bipartisanship or Irreconcilable Differences?
By Arnold Kling
Pundits bemoan the absence of bipartisanship. Implicitly, they believe that bipartisanship is necessary and sufficient to solve public policy problems. Another possibility is that our politics today actually involves irreconcilable differences.
One picture of American politics is that only about 10 percent of us want the European welfare state and only about 10 percent are adamantly opposed. There are 80 percent in the middle. Given that picture, if the centrists could quiet those of us on the extremes, then the country could be governed in a nice, rational way.
But what if the center is not really so dominant? My sense is that there are a lot of people who do not have strong ideological convictions one way or another. But that represents indifference or ignorance, rather than a center.
Among people who care about politics, I suspect that the center is pretty small. Perhaps most people who care are on one side or the other. In that case, we should consider the possibility of irreconcilable differences.
I think that the best way to deal with irreconcilable differences is to revive federalism. Imagine Maine as a European welfare state and New Hampshire as a libertarian state, with the Federal government only providing national defense.
For me, the next step beyond reviving traditional federalism is virtual federalism. People do not have to segregate by moving between Maine and New Hampshire. Instead, for purposes of education, health care, and social security, people can join virtual states. I could join a virtual state that implements something like compassionate liberarianism for all its members. Progressives could sign up for a state that offers a more technocratic approach to education, health care, and income security. There could be hundreds of different states.
Again, see the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced.