The Progressive Tantrum
By Arnold Kling
People want the government to help provide jobs, but they also want it to cut the deficit.
His point is that people are inconsistent, so the government just has to ignore them and run a deficit to create jobs. I have two questions about this:
1. Is it really the case that people want the government to create jobs? I have seen many progressives and pundits claim that people are angry about jobs, but I have not seen any people clamoring for the government to create jobs.
2. Does the government know how to create jobs?
Kurt Andersen writes that the Founding Fathers did not want a democracy. Instead,
They wanted a government run by an American elite like themselves
Of course, they also wanted a government of limited powers, but that is not important, is it?
Later, Andersen writes,
the job of serious Washington grown-ups with big populist constituencies–both presidents Roosevelt, Reagan, even Richard Nixon–is to respond to the rage with the minimum necessary demagoguery, throw them a few bones to calm them down, and then make deals with your fellow members of the elected elite.
…In the old days, the elite media really did control the national political discourse; there were no partisan, splenetic cable news or ubiquitous talk-radio channels and no blogosphere to keep the populists riled up and make them feel the excitement of a mob. Until fifteen years ago, presidents and congressional leaders could pretty well manage the policy conversations, keep them on reasonable simmer. But the new technologies have, maybe permanently, turned up the political heat to boil.
Finally, from two months ago there is Thomas Friedman,
One-party autocracy certainly has its drawbacks. But when it is led by a reasonably enlightened group of people, as China is today, it can also have great advantages. That one party can just impose the politically difficult but critically important policies needed to move a society forward in the 21st century.
Everyone agrees that the Republicans are just throwing sand in the gears of good government and not offering any ideas. What that means is that they are not offering ideas to enlarge government. Congressman Paul Ryan’s ideas do not count, because those would cut back on government, particularly Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.
My point here is not to champion Republicans. It is not to champion democracy. My point is that the ones throwing the temper tantrum right now are the Progressives. They think that the 2008 election gave them the right to operate like China’s autocracy, and they are lashing out hysterically at those they perceive as preventing them from doing so On the one hand, the villains are a small minority in the Senate. Or maybe the villains are the incoherent majority of the people.
The important point is that Progressives are never wrong. Top-down reform is the only way to fix the health care system. Anthropogenic global warming is scientifically proven, and its solution requires strenuous exercise of political control over individual behavior. Deficit spending is necessary and sufficient to create jobs. Technocrats can make banks too regulated to fail. Markets without technocratic control are like adolescents without adult supervision. Individual happiness can be improved by political authorities using scientific knowledge. Concentrated political power is the wave of the future, and it is good.
I am not a populist. I fear the mob. But how can I fear the Progressives any less?