Economic Planning versus Democracy: Illustrations from the Commentators





1. Carl Bernstein, the noted journalist, on the Morning Joe TV show on MSNBC:  

“Everything we have been hearing this morning on this broadcast indicates that the reason Barack Obama is showing such masterful- and I think we can use that word- leadership so far is that he’s in the process of solving the problem of the U.S. Congress, the fact that it is a largely dysfunctional institution. That he’s got to work around it to get this economic program moving and through.”


 2. Clive Crook of the Financial Times offers this tempered consideration:

“Republicans have a point when they complain about the inordinate length of the bill–1,400 pages or thereabouts (the count does not seem to have settled down yet). Republicans are right to say that not a single senator or congressman voting for it can have read it. Of course, it is hypocrisy for them to say this: failing to read the law you are voting for is standard working method in Congress. But that doesn’t invalidate the criticism, certainly not in the eyes of the public. Not every unread piece of legislation costs taxpayers $800 billion. It isn’t too much to ask that the politicians voting for this law, even if they had to make an exception, had read it first.

It will be interesting to see what is hiding in those 1,400 pages.” 


What Clive seems to be saying is that, at 1400 pages, the bill could not possibly have been reviewed in detail by many members of Congress before they voted for it given the rush to get it done.  What he doesn’t say is that most representatives and senators generally only review the parts of any bill that are important to them for some reason.  They may look at the parts that pertain to their committee assignment or which are relevant to their district or state.  More likely, they’ve had their personal or committee staff look at the bill and tell them whether there’s anything they need to be concerned about.

These statistics are meaningless and often completely misleading.  The same can be said for the number of pages in legislation.

But citing the number of pages as a reason to think legislation is bad is ridiculous.  That’s on a par with football commentators talking about the number of minutes one team has had the ball compared to the other or the greater number of plays one team has run.  It’s also similar to the meaningless total number of points one tennis player has won during a match compared to the other.


4. Brad DeLong quotes Collender at length on his blog – whether that suggests agreement (as I suspect given his other opinions) or simply that DeLong found it interesting, I do not know for sure.


My Analysis  


























7 thoughts on “Economic Planning versus Democracy: Illustrations from the Commentators

  1. What if the slippery slope is inherent in democracy? I know it sounds outrages, given the “Americanisation” of the contemporary meaning of the word, a process for which Roosevelt and the context of his time was to no small extent responsible. But what is democracy with no epithets? Collective political choice – anything more or less is something alien, glued with the flow of time around it…

  2. This is just fantastic. I found it particularly revealing that, despite the rush to avert ‘catastrophe,’ the President — after rushing the bill through the legislature — found time to take a mini-vacation before signing it into law.

  3. Great article.

    Of course, we have not given consent. The progression of our political structure has been to alienate the individual from the government. First power moved from the towns to the states to Washington; now, even the politicians themselves have been alienated from government, which is controlled, as you say, by a cabal of special interests against the general interest.

  4. Dr. Rizzo,

    Robert Higgs has been pointing out recently, beginning right after the Newsweek article “We Are All Socialists Now”, that what we are actually moving to a form of fascism. He has labeled it “participatory fascism” because some surface elements of a free society will still exist, but the government will indeed be pulling the economic and social strings in the background.

    You are correct then in pointing out how many economists and commentarians seem to be enthralled with the Furhrer Principle when talking about Obama and the role they feel he should assume in the financial crises.

    This seems quite fitting considering that historically “intellectuals” have been infatuated with naked power and the charismatic leaders who wielded it. Just look at the love affair different intellectuals had with Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Castro.

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