Thursday, November 04, 2010

Conservative Domestic Policy Reform in US and Canada

Reihan Salaam sets out an attractive domestic agenda for the Republicans here. Everywhere and always the biggest villains are tax expenditures. Next are cost-plus gummint contracts (and disguised cost-plus contracts). The right sometimes views the first as tax cuts and the second as being friendly to business. It needs to realize that tax expenditures are just welfare and cost-plus contracts are corporate welfare.

The Pithlord's not against a welfare state, but of course we have problems with affordability, especially in healthcare and moral hazard, especially in income support. A bad way to reform is just to means-test everything, since that effectively makes for punitive marginal tax rates on the working poor. The better way is to impose deductibles and then co-payments, which could be means tested. The welfare state needs to think more like an insurance company.

Universal Health Care Safe With Republican Congress

Check out the Republican proposals. Every single item increases government responsbility for healthcare in the US.

The revolution is permanent. There will be much negotiating around the edges. The demographic/cost tsunami will eventually force US politicians, like those in Europe and Canada, to do some unpopular things, although this will be delayed to the last possible moment. But universal healthcare will remain a responsibility of the federal government. Forever.

Good thing too in my view, and enough to ensure that Nancy Pelosi's name will last forever. But it doesn't matter how I evaluate it, since it's really none of my business. The point is as a descriptive matter, BHO has achieved what even LBJ couldn't.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Why Constitutional Monarchy Rocks

There are a lot of Yglesias-haters in the comment box, but I would like to point out that he makes a damn good case for constitutional monarchy.

There is glamour in power. That's an irreducible fact about human nature. But democratic politicians shouldn't have access to that glamour.

Also, for some purposes, we need someone who can make gestures on behalf of the nation. Active politicians can't sensibly do that, because about half the population (give or take) hates their guts.

Unfortunately, Yglesias is too sanguine about actual Canadian practice. Liberals don't understand the monarchy, and have spent a lot of time trying to undermine it, so it isn't as unifying as one would hope. Quebec can't really get into it. And first ministers want the glamour, for the very reason they shouldn't have it, so they try to marginalize those in possession of vice-regal authority.

The crazy thing is that people who should know better think the vice regents are a bigger threat to democracy than the desire of the Prime Minister's Office to presidentialize our system.

Bottom line: You should totally be allowed to call the premier or prime minister "dude."

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Midterm Prediction

In the House, I say Republicans 235, Dems 200.

Senate goes 50-50 (counting Lieberman and Sanders as Dems).

Update (October 29): I'm going to have to back out of the 50-50 prediction on the Senate. Can't see the Republicans doing better than 48, counting Murkowski as a Republican. I'll stick with my House prediction.

As for a pre-mortem, if these numbers are about right, I disagree with those who think they are all the result of a bad economy. The primary drivers that the Democrats could not control are (a) regression to the mean after two good cycles for the Democrats and (b) the general tendency for the midterm electorate to be more Republican than the presidential year electorate.

The other major factor is that conservative America is energized, while it was demoralized in 2006 and to a lesser extent in 2008 (although this is part of "regression to the mean"), while the progressive coalition is at more-or-less ordinary levels of unity and energy.

The only way the Democrats could have changed this would have been to govern in a way less likely to anger conservative America. I disagree with those who say this would be impossible, but it would have required not using a once-in-a-generation shot at major legislative change. If the Democrats hadn't pulled off the "stimulus" (mostly liberal wish-list spending) and health care, the conservative base wouldn't be as fired up, and the results would be less one sided. On the other hand, the whole point of political power is to do things, so it may have been a worthwhile choice from the Democratic perspective.

I suspect there won't be much legislation in the next two years, but there may not be a huge blowout between the President and the House either. Just a lot of sniping on the edges, as everyone prepares for the real showdown in 2012. In other words, 2006-2008 with the roles reversed.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Low Corruption Derives From Weird Extended Family Norms

Yglesias correctly argues that the social-democratic Nordic/libertarian Anglophone dichotomy is less important than what the two types of cultures have in common (relatively low corruption and good governance, lack of loyalty to extended family):

I’ve been drawn to the “common cultural attributes” thesis just based on the observation that Nordic pop culture (Max Martin, Stieg Larsson, Ida Maria, Robyn) penetrates the Anglosphere very easily and has done so for a long time (Abba, Aha, Ibsen). It still strikes me that the most plausible mechanism here has to do with corruption and good government rather than individualism per se. I imagine that everyone looks out for his or her own interests, but the question becomes what does that balance with. If you balance it with fairly abstract principles of correct conduct, you get good government and enlightened self-interest. If you balance it with loyalty to extended family groups or long chains of personal connections, then you get corruption.

But that’s just ideas I made up.

Yglesias could read the very unfashionable Frederic W. Maitland. The Teutonic cultures all shared a weird set of inheritance structures, in which both collateral maternal kin and paternal kin could inherit. Lots of stuff follows from that.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Don't Feel Bad, Colby

Colby Cosh thinks federalism jurisprudence ought to be clearer than it is.

You would think that Canadian jurisprudence had developed a clear objective rule for settling even the trickiest “double aspect” issues, wherein both federal and provincial governments can claim that some crumb falls within their respective spheres of constitutional power.

You would, apparently, be wrong.

Actually, though, no one has ever been able to predict how the Supreme Court of Canada would determine federalism cases. It's a mess, and it's been that way since Duplessis was unable to stop St. Laurent from abolishing appeals to the Judicial Committee. Since that time, the Court has been split between the terminally confused and those who never wanted to strike down any legislation, provincial or federal, on division-of-powers grounds -- a position more-or-less adopted by the SCOTUS after the 1930s and defended for Canada by Paul Weiler.