TCS Daily


The Leadership Myth

By Arnold Kling - October 24, 2006 12:00 AM

"People like Reid, Hastert, Pelosi are complete mediocrities who should be at much lower levels in our society. Something is fundamentally wrong on both sides of the aisle if they are the upper leadership of our Congress."
-- Roger L. Simon

I disagree with Roger Simon. Not because I think highly of the leaders he disparages. But one way in which libertarians differ from conventional liberals and conservatives is that we place less faith in having good political leaders.

The conventional wisdom is that we would be better off if politically powerful leaders were less mediocre. Instead, my view is that we would be better off if mediocre political leaders were less powerful.

The Real Value of Democracy

Democracy does not lead to particularly good choices. Most successful institutions in society are not democratic.

An example of an institution that I believe works well is a sports tournament. A good chess tournament or tennis tournament produces a winner who is far better than mediocre.

Another example of an institution that works well is the scientific method. I trust the results of well-designed experiments much more than I trust popular opinion.

Many institutions give concentrated decision-making power to experts. Examples include business decisions made by corporations or tenure decisions made by academic departments. Many government agencies are built to work on this model, but in the absence of the competitive discipline that exists in the private sector, the results are mixed. My personal impression is that some agencies, such as the Federal Reserve, have an abundance of expertise, while other agencies, such as the CIA, appear somewhat deficient.

For me, the value of democracy is that it provides a check on government officials. The fact that leaders can be tossed out by popular vote helps to limit their abuse of power. Democracy gives the people the power to toss out the bums.

This view of democracy is what makes the 2006 election so difficult. The incumbent Republicans in Congress have done everything possible to merit being tossed out as bums. They have abused power, focused on entrenchment, and acted aloof and arrogant when called to account. Although many conservative Republican supporters complain about my intention to stay home this November, I feel that, if anything, I am bending over backwards for Republicans by abstaining, rather than voting Democratic. Of course, no one has to remind me that the Democrats are at least as guilty of arrogance, entrenchment, and tendency to abuse power. Incumbents of both parties deserve to be tossed out as bums.

Expect Mediocrity

We have to expect mediocrity from political leaders. They are selected by a very unreliable process. In general, I try to avoid contact with narcissists who spend their time pleading for money. Those are hardly the intellectual and emotional characteristics that make someone admirable, yet they are the traits of people who go into politics.

Could election reforms help? None of the election reforms currently under discussion would make much difference, in my view. I once pointed out that in order to reproduce the degree of accountability that existed at the time of the nation's founding, we would need 250 states, but (a) I am not sure that would work and (b) it is not going to be tried.

The libertarian view is that private institutions, both for-profit and non-profit, are better at problem-solving than government institutions. Regardless of whether political leadership is wise or mediocre, our goal should be to limit the damage that public officials can do. Do not demand that they "solve" health care, "fix" education, or launch a "Manhattan project" for energy independence. Even for experts, those are impossible tasks. The harder we press our existing leaders to address these issues, the more trouble they are going to cause.

The belief that the problem with government is the particular individuals in power is dangerous. The myth is that somewhere out there we could find great leaders who could use government to solve all of our problems. Instead, we need to be vigilant against the enlargement of government, by either mediocre or expert leaders.

Do not look upon the electoral process as a search for great leaders. At best, it gives us an opportunity for damage control.

Arnold Kling is author of Learning Economics.

Categories:

74 Comments

Accountability of Government Agents and democracy
Arnold,

How can you "reproduce the degree of accountability that existed at the time of the nation's founding", by promoting democracy?

It is the pernicious idea of democracy - about which every one of the FFs spoke negatively - that is the cause of the present ills.

Democracy DOES NOT, provide a check on Government Agents. It gives them carte blanche.

IF even Libertarians start talking of "our goal should be to limit the damage that public officials can do" instead of sticking to the principles of Individual Rights, this country is doomed.

The conclusion that the only alternative available to the citizenry is a temporary releif of reduction in the abuse by Government Agents is very dangerous.

politcal myths
The political elites are happy that people are mostly fearful and not independant, always striving for more government to coddle them in the naive assumption that they will have the public good at heart instead of the elites own venal desires, career advancement, power, etc. Governments encourage this all thru their offical organs, like the schools, and welfare entitlement policies. That's why no real libertarian party could ever get in. Imagine telling people that they pretty much will have to look after themselves.

Leaders matter...
I would agree with Mr. Kling that most leaders are mediocre incompetents, but to suggest that leaders do not matter is to ignore almost all of recorded history. I could talk about Genghis Khan, Alexander the Great, Napoleon Bonaparte, George Washington and many more great leaders who set standards, motivated their nations, blazed trails and so on. However, I think it is more instructive to take a look at a more recent example: Ronald Reagan vs. George W. Bush.

On the issue of national security, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have taken very similar stances. Both confronted our enemies rather than seek accomodation that could never be. Neither was prepared to back down in the face of enemy aggression.

On the issue of domestic policy, however, they both took very different stances.

Ronald Reagan believed that government was not the solution to most of our problems, but the source of those problems. Excluding the increase in military spending, he actually succeeded in controlling the ballooning size of government. He did this despite having to combat a divided government. He did not try to reach accomodation with his domestic enemies, but sought to convert Americans to his way of thinking, and the results of his campaign for re-election speak for themselves. (Hint: "Landslide" is too kind a term for what he did to Mondale...)

George W. Bush believes that the government can be the solution to our problems, if they are solved the right way. Instead of fighting the growth of government, he has actively sought to grow the Federal Government's role through bills like No Child Left Behind and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit. Despite majorities in both houses of Congress, he has not made a single bold move in the direction of shrinking government. He made two feints in that direction, but totally failed to back them: Social Security reform and tax reform. He won re-election because of the war, and because of a few nutty judges who legalized gay marriage. He won because the Democrats ran a reptile with the testicular fortitude of a capon, not because people liked him.

In-short, leaders do make a difference, if they are bold enough to take a stand. Bill Clinton and Bush 41 are going to be condemned to footnotes in the pages of history. George W. Bush may get a page or two because of 9/11 and the War on Terror, but nothing else. Ronald Reagan will live on as the man who won the Cold War, changed the course of American politics and altered the direction of the Republican Party.

The elites want it, but nobody else does...
... at least in America. Ronald Reagan won by landslides in 1980 and 1984 for a reason. The same is true of the elctions in 1994.

The youngr generation in America is simply not buying this dependancy garbage. Thanks to tools like the internet and the wide-variety of news sources that are available to them, they largely believe in things like limited government, God and national security. I would be very surprised to see parties like the Democrats persist in their present forms for much longer.

politics?
Is there a better model? It seems to me that by practicing damage control we institutionalize the law of demenioning returns and we have reached the realm of negative returns no matter what we do or who we elect.
To stay home as a positive action? I think that too many of us have stayed home for too long.

to Publius
But what about guy like Reagun and Thatcher in the UK who did try to actually be principal, unlike most, but where still stymied because of vested interests, and also because they thought that maybe there would be enough liberals against change, so that then the party would be voted out next time? I guess they say that Reagun at first said he would try to disband the dept of education, right? So the worry is that there is a critical mass who want 'bread and circuses' and the phoney promises of a free lunch that most politicians give.

The "critical mass" theory...
...is one I happen to believe in wholeheartedly. In fact, I even have a theory about how we can tell when that critical mass has been reached: When less than 50% of the voting public pays for the consequences of their votes.

America is getting dangerously close to this point right now. In fact, it would not take very much to shift us past it. According to the IRS, in FY2005, the top 50% of wage earners paid 96.54% of the taxes collected in this country.

It should also be noted that the top 10% of the income-earners in this country paying 65.84% of all of the taxes collected, the fraction that is paid by the other 90% is pretty small. As that fraction gets smaller and smaller, it costs them less to demand bread and circuses.

The good news is that the richer you are, the more likely you are to vote. This means that, for a while at least, those who are demanding bread and circuses are likely to be more-or-less balanced by those who have some fiscal restraint. However, every middle-class tax cut puts a higher-burden on the rich, and reduces the incentive for middle-class people and below to vote for fiscal restraint.

None of this really answers your question about the apparent failure of leaders who try to be principled and are stopped by others with vested interests. I think the answer is that they got more done than anybody ever expected they could. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan achieved a lot during their time in office, despite the fact that they both faced opposition from outside, from the other parties and from within their own parties. More importantly, they changed the debate. Ronald Reagan basically changed the whole platform of the Republican Party through his time in office. Even if he did not get rid of the Department of Education, he changed the debate.

George W. Bush has not managed to change the debate, or get anything done domestically despite the fact that he has a Republican majority in both houses of Congress. Leaders matter, especially when you want to overcome vested interests.

50,000 per Congressman
When the country was founded, 1 House member represented about 50,000 people. Now it can be 10 times that many, and more.

Better model: US Constitution
Unfortunately it has not been followed for quite some time.

Staying home = Crazies
Voting is roughly equivalent to those survey cards you find on your table at restaurants. Very few people who have not had a very good (or very bad) experience will fill out one of these cards. Occasionally, you will get a random teenager who will write something stupid on there (the equivalent of a Nader voter?) but the people who will fill these things out are motivated. This means that you have to assume that you are getting opinions from the extremes of people's experiences when you evaluate the results of these surveys.

Partisans get emotional about elections, and so partisans vote. People who are extremely attached to the agenda of one party will tromp to the voting booth year-after-year. Rain, sleet, snow, hurricanes be d@mned, they will show up. People who believe that there is not practical difference between the two parties will stay home at the slightest provocation, because it just isn't worth it.

Then there is the "message-nonvoter." The message nonvoter decides to stay home to send a message to the men in charge that you are angry, and you are not going to come out and play. What they seem to forget is that, by failing to vote, they let the people who ARE emotionally invested, the partisans, decide the election.

If you want REALLY polarized politics, stay home. We will have Kennedy-Durbin for the Democratic Presidential nominations in '08, and Limbaugh-Robertson for the Republicans. While I like that potential Republican ticket, I have to say that letting the crazies decide elections is not a way to change people's actions, it is just a way to make them more extreme in order to motivate the people who will come out and vote.

Modern communications and transportation.
Nowadays, Congresspersons can reach their constituents much more easily. They can hear from them by phone, fax, email, IM, letter, etc.

Travelling to and from your district, and seeing how given policies were affecting your district are much easier today with air, car, bus and train travel available.

As a final note, the Feds did not poke their noses in to nearly as many state issues at the time of the founding as they do today...

1 Congressman for AK vs 1 for a small district in NYC?
Not quite the same.

It's based upon population...NYC is densely populated
How many people do Members of Congress represent?

Members of the House of Representatives each represent a Congressional District made up of about 600,000 people. Every state has two Senators who each represent the entire state.

The number of Representatives each state has is based on population, but each state has at least one. There are seven states that only have one Representative in the House. They are: Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, Vermont, South Dakota, Alaska, and Wyoming.

http://www.house.gov/fattah/features/faq.htm

It sure doesn't help when it's referred to as a ...
..."g-d d-mned piece of paper."

"critical mass" and Government role
"critical mass" is as important in Physics as it is in Politics.

Democracy is, - as understood by a "critical mass" of people today - Government - as representated by the 600 odd Agents in the Congress and Senate - can do any concrete thing that is not expressly prohibited by the Constitution. Lemuel is a specimen of this school. See my arguments with him on another thread.

A "critical mass" of people have been brought up to focus on concretes instead of the principles that govern a multitude of concretes.

And it takes much longer to undo the damage.

Time for the Technocrats
'Is there a better model?'

Yes there is but it requires a basic restructuring of government. Our current system is too complex for the average citizen to participate and politicians like it that way.

- Simple Taxation (Individual Consumption Tax for State and Federal Revenue) (Property Tax on the Unimproved Land Value for Local Revenue)

- Equal Revenue Distribution

(Each representative would be given control of one-half of the total per capita share of government revenue.)

- Simple Law that everyone can understand
(Based on Natural Law - Never harm another for benefit or pleasure and only expect the same of others. All law that does not agree with this principle may be repealed at the Local level.)

Thanx,

Kevin

Equivalently, Staying Home = Surrender
Publius makes the great point that if all the frustrated and rational people stay home, that the nutjobs will do all the voting and have an even more disproportionate representation in Congress and in political discourse.

All this staying home business in order to "punish" the big gov't republicans is not going to accomplish anything. Besides, I always thought that the Primaries were supposed to achieve this result. All the disaffected libertarians and conservatives should start working to ensure that incumbents are properly held accountable for straying from limited gov't principles in the next Primary.

Any political party is only as good as it's ability to correct itself.

my sense of the article
is that there is no plug-in fixes for the problems the Arnold notes and the only possible solutions are very broad and deep indeed.
you have said fix the taxes, live up to the constitution,re-elect Reagen and on. Is the exsisting constitution with a libratarian party the only ideas floating around here?

It's the Supreme Court Stupid
In the long run, the only way to correct the current political morass is to elect or retain more Republicans who will put Originalist members on the Supreme Court.


Originalist rulings will return us to more federalism, personal responsibility, and other ways of achieving limited, competent government.

a new way to select the number of congress criters
One house based on population, the other house based on square miles.
One representative for every 50,000 in population.
One representative for every 50,000 square miles.

Finance reform
"I try to avoid contact with narcissists who spend their time pleading for money. Those are hardly the intellectual and emotional characteristics that make someone admirable, yet they are the traits of people who go into politics."


Members of Congress tell me they spend about 70% of their time trying to raise money, mainly because of limitations on giving. The first step to improving the lot would b to eliminate all limits, but require immediate and full disclosure online.


But elected officials are mostly the Great Oz. The man behind the curtain is the unelected bureacracy. A senior member of Reagan's Commerce Dept. recently told me that at Reagan's most radical point, he may have nudged the bureacracy 2 degrees to the right.

I'll go for the 50,000 in population . . .
But not for 50,000 square miles; otherwise, in Alaska they'd be representing the caribou. :)

At least in the Senate, every State has an even number of votes.

Apportionment
Alaska benefits from apportionment, as do all the small states. Every citizen in Wyoming, for example, has a vote equivalent to that of one and a half Californians.

Wyoming, population 509,000. One representative.

California, population 36,132,000. Proportionally they should have 72 representatives to have one per half million people. They only have 52.

If the Internet makes people more libertarian...
"The younger generation in America is simply not buying this dependancy garbage. Thanks to tools like the internet and the wide-variety of news sources that are available to them, they largely believe in things like limited government, God and national security."

...then how do you explain Howard Dean and Daily Kos, among others. I think you are projecting, if that's the term. Like most people, you seem to think that every intelligent person thinks like you do. Unfortunately, it's not true.

The person formerly known as eric
Arguing with Lemuel is a waste of bandwidth. You can save a lot of time by not reading his posts or any answers to them. If this were USENET and I was using a newsreader, his name would be number one in my killfile.

You might have a different opinion if you lived in TN
I can't vote this November for US Senator or Representative because both the major party candidates are not competent to be dog catcher much less hold higher office. There is no least bad choice. Nor was there one in the primary. I'm not sending a message, I'm just trying to retain the contents of my stomach and keep some control of my blood pressure.

That being said, I won't be sorry if the Republicans lose control of either or both Houses of Congress. Better now than in 2008.

Actually, It's the 17th Amendment
The direct election of US Senators by popular vote has been a disaster. Yes there were problems with the election of Senators by state legislatures. For example, there were often empty seats. But those problems can be solved without the resort to direct popular elections. Of course it would take a miracle to get such an amendment through the current Senate. Unsurprisingly, it took a very long time to get the 17th amendment approved.

I don't know
The caribou might be smarter than many Democrats.

This could be solved
by increasing the number of representatives.

100 years ago or so, they decided to fix the size of the House at 435, because they were running out of room. With modern technology, they don't actually have to be in the room, not even in Washington, in order to conduct the people's business.

Re intelligent caribou. The kind of day I've been having . . .
...I think I'd be better off letting the caribou do my job and I should put on bells and start pulling sleighs.

The myth is that government can make a difference
The myth is not that leaders cannot make a difference, it is that leaders cannot use government to solve all our problems and improve each of our lives. Thinking that government can solve our problems especially problems relative to personal choice and responsibility automatically calls to question a person's leadership ability.

The design of our government was that it should be limited and that the most powerful part of government should be that closest to the people, certainly not the federal government. The sole roll of the federal government was to protect the country from foreign invaders and to regulate commerce with other countries. It was not to tell me what I should eat. Or was it to take from the proverbial hard working ant and give to the lazy grasshopper.

Yet even a great leader who recognizes all problems cannot be solved by government still faces a problem. The bureaucracies are in fact politically protected and extremely powerful. Any Congressperson or Senator not on a given agencies budget subcommittee has little hope of changing that agency. Much of what we dislike about government comes directly from nameless bureaucrats or the "we-bes", we be here when they came and we be here when you are gone.

Yet as Winston Churchill once said, "Those that do not participate in government get the government they deserve!"

staying home is equivalent to voting, in the message it sends
First to Publius, I think your comments are correct to a point, but its not the full story. I don't agree that voting is roughly equivalent to the survey cards on tables at restaurants. There are people who vote because they view it as their civic duty, regardless of whether they're knowledgable about the candidates or politics in general, and regardless of whether they've had a very good/bad experience. I think this group of voters is larger than any other group of partisans or message non-voters. The middle is where the country resides. Elections aren't won by which party gets their base to show up, they're won by who can influence the middle to vote for their party's candidate. By the sounds of it, there will be message non-voters in '06 election from all corners of political opinion, so I don't see how that will make the elected reps any more extreme. If anything I expect the next couple elections will take us back to the center, to the moderates. Because thats what people are tired of, the partisanship and extremity of the discourse. And the corruption, etc., but politicians have always been corrupt.

BTW, I think the fact you like the idea of a Limbaugh-Robertson ticket makes you one of the crazies you're talking about. For the lack of directly admitting you are, your comments are an admission nonetheless.


To McGruv: "All this staying home business in order to "punish" the big gov't republicans is not going to accomplish anything."

Yes it is, its going to elect the other party. And thats the point, the bums in there now are embarrassing, Dem and Repub. Its time to give Dems some power back and see if it gets us on the right track. If not, it'll be time to vote the bums out again next time. At the very least the parties should share control of the branches so they HAVE to work together to get anything done. I mean, how embarrassing is it that your party enjoys total control and they still can't get anything done?

I think the problem with the failure of primaries to weed out the extremists is that extremist voters participate in primaries to a larger degree than moderates. The partisans are more likely to vote in primaries than the general population.

Staying Home, the Greater of Two Evils
It's gotta get worse before it can get better. It's always darkest before the dawn. - all falacies.

Ask anybody who trains animals, or has kids. You don't get anywhere with the stick approach. If there was any way to throw the bums out without throwing worse bums in, I'd be all for it. This is the classic throw the baby out with the bathwater scenario. Those who stay home as some kind of fiscally conservative statement will come to rue the day.

A Solution in search of a problem.
Roy doesn't care about limits on government in general, with liberals already having crowned Nancy Pelosi as empress he's ready to unleash those controls on regional hegemony. There's a reason to contain and limit the influence of political subdivisions. Those of us that care about limited government know that absent the reliable plantations the democrat massas hae erected-called cities, life would be different.

Think Pennsylvania less Philly. Rendell lost something like 61 of 67 counties. Naturally, he'll be relected governor of Philadelphia. Philadelphia is a chancre on PA. The single greatest county with welfare Philadelphia-but thats not all-there's Stadium subsidies, mass transit subsidies (hey, its important state college keep funding Philly companies worker transport) How about New York without NYC? Illinois without Chicago?

As for having legislation enacted from remote locations, that is too much technophilia-legislators need the personal interaction and discourse in person debate brings. I want people to be seen sweating,shaking and rolling their eyes when they start bloviating.







Republican Corruption?
Kling keeps talking about Republican corruption- he forgets who perfected the art of oting early and often and post mortem suffrage.

Democrats gave us the finest corruption from Tamany Hall to the House Bank Scandal. Then there were the minor scandals such as the Kennedy's pumping up book sales of "profiles in courage", which is of course a mere traffic ticket compared to Ted's actions at Chappaquiddick.

In microcosm, lets look at the recent Foley Scandal: Foley is sent packing for mails. Gerry Studds actually sodomized pages and Barney Frank had a curious ignorance of his lover's whorehouse.




Amen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here Here!!!

Consider who is pushing the "stay home to show them a message"
Consider who is pushing the "stay home to show them a message" and what their motives are. It is certainly not to advocate the advancement of conservative fiscal and social ideas.

The media has misquoted a few social conservative leaders in the hope of getting enough right wing conspiricy voters to stay home so that the Democrats can take control of the House and Senate.
http://www.worldmag.com/articles/12319

Democrat Leadership = Hereditary Aristocracy and Outside Control
As we debate this, this version of "Leadership" is being practiced in PA.

Bob Casey, running on is dead father's coattails may very well become the PA junior senator, despite his lack of credible experience.

Nice that power stays in the family. The ol' man gave us the "pizza tax" and apart from a minor challenge to the national Democrats n the matter of their abortionist stalinism, he was a rather indistinguished governor.

Yet for all their supposed "leadership" the Caseys have done nothing for their home town, Scranton-a perennial economic basket case. The Caseys see their entire life as missions of noblesse oblige. For all their delusions of job creating acumen-they are only good at one thing-running for office. They used to live off the clannishness of local ethnic politics, but today they're just good old fashion double talking liberals with delusions of becoming minor Kennedys. Naturally job jumper Bobby Jr. was hand picked by Chuck Shumer, who saw an ambitious but unqualified sycophant who'll need constant coaching and control.





Another Gem, Publius *NM*
*

Reall troublesome
When a congressman represents 900,000+ people in an area of over 145,000 square miles. Makes it a bit tough to represent every every region in that area and every population group.

Better yet
Make California and New York proportionate to Montana; 1 Representative for every 900,000+ (probably closer to a million now) That would give California just 36-40.

Thanks
.

to makoshark
The fed govn't doesn't even need to regulate any kind of trade with foreigners. We see all the time that GE can do that themselves, so can every other company, except those seeking subsidies. All the govnt is needed for is courts, police, and military. If they don't control other things, no chance for corruption.

I agree with what you have to say. . .
...but there's a lot of people who don't want to be responsible for their own actions. They don't want to make decisions. They want to be told what to do. And as long as people feel like that, the government will be more than happy to accommodate them.

Actually, it's based on survey data...
http://www.horatioalger.org/pdfs/state05.pdf

This annual report covers everything from sex and drugs to God and guns. It demonstrates a marked decrease in the number of kids who believe that the government is the solution to things like poverty, and several other problems. It also demonstrates that belief in God is much higher in this generation than it is in their parents. Finally, they have much more positive attitudes towards their country than their parents. This is going to be a patriotic generation, filled with Gog-fearing, government-distrusting conservatives.

Live with it.

Forgot something...
Specifically, to address Kos and Dean.

First, Kos is not young, he is 35. He is too old to be called a part of the current generation of "youths." His success is due, in part, to youths. However, what percentage we will never know.

Second, Howard Dean attracted a hardcore group of fanatics. The Dems do this a lot. He generated a lot fo internet and media buzz, but then as now, he couldn't pull it off in the end. He is not raising anywhere near enough money for his party to win, he is pursuing victories in all fifty states, guaranteeing losses in most of them, and he is constantly irritating established Dems. If this is the wave of the future for Libs, I am glad. It means that I won't have to work too hard to ensure that Republicans are elected for the next few decades.

No Subject
Compared to the time of the Founding Fathers, I would suggest that every person has substantially better access to their Congressman and Senator than ever before.

These representatives can reach people all over the state via advanced communications like telephones and email. Furthermore, these representatives can travel all over the state in a matter of hours by air or car. They can return home to their state for the weekend, and get a sense of how people are feling back there, then be back in Washington by Sunday night.

Compare this ease of communication and movement with the time of the Founding Fathers. The maximum speed of travel was the speed of a good horse. Both news and people took weeks to get from one end of the country to another.

The facility with which we can communicate from one end of the country to another means that people in Hawaii can let their representatives know today what they think about issues that will be decided tomorrow. I would say that, despite the fact that some representatives have to do a little more travelling to appear at local events and reach people, people are much better represented by Congress today than they ever were in the past.

The Proud Right-Wing Extremist Retorts...
I readily and regularly acknowledge my status as a right-wing nut. I am the type of person who will be making the decisions if the moderates stay home because they are tired of all the fighting and partisanship.

I think that history totally disproves all of your assertions about how people win elections. First, turnout is the ONLY thing that matters. Even the Dems themselves talk about the massive turnout operation the Republicans have mounted in recent years, and how effective it has been. Take a look at this article from the Wasington Post, discussing RNC turnout operations versus DNC turnout operations and tell me they don't make some good points:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/13/AR2006091302254_pf.html

Second, when has the "middle" ever won an election? Bill Clinton moved to the right, with his "triangulation" strategy, and it got him a big win. Democrats regularly move to the right to make themselves appear mainstream, take John Kerry's hunting expedition or his inability to say he opposed the war in Iraq. Ronald Reagan was well to the right of anybody who had ever run before, and he won some of the biggest electoral landslides that this country has ever seen. The middle is a place for wishy-washy, spineless fools who stand for nothing, and most moderates are crushed whenever they run. Anyway, the number of "moderates" is dramatically overstated. Everybody likes to appear as if they are above partisan politics, but most people lean distinctly towards one of the two. People frequently lie to pollsters to make them appear to be erudite and evenhanded, when in fact they look like spineless jellyfish. When polls are taken, it appears that there are a large chunk of moderates out there, but they do not actually appear at the polls.

Finally, how does staying home send a message? To whom does it send a message? What message does it send? If you stay home, are you staying home because of illegal immigration? Spending? Iraq? Gay marriage? Did you have the flu? Was your car broken? What message does it send? How do you know that you are not sending the wrong message? Send a letter to your representatives, handwritten for effect, and let them know why you are dissatisfied. They actually pay attention to handwritten letters, I know, I used to work in D.C. Do not stay home.

Does it need to be fixed? Can it be fixed?
I think that the question Mr. Kling is addressing is fundamentally different from most of the questions that are being addressed here on the discussion board. Mr. Kling is essentially suggesting that the problem is not leaders, because leaders do not matter. The problem is government and the fact that it has so much power.

The question of how to stop the spread of government power is something that people have been dealing with before 1776. Luckily, our founders built in a fusebox for Democracy (the Second Amendment,) to prevent the government from usurping too much power. Revolution is a little extreme for our current situation, however.

I actually did not argue for the re-election of Ronald Reagan above, I argued that leaders DO make a difference. I also argued that we need to ensure that people understand and have to face the responsibility that accompanies the authority given to them by the power to vote. This was in my argument over the tax system. However, none of the solutions proposed on this discussion board will make the difference alone. In general, it is going to require educating people about things like basic economics and the truth of history.

The problem of numbskull leaders cannot be solved overnight (except, possible, with the revolutionary option,) but it can be solved when enough people agree with the ideas that form the foundation of both Libertarian and Conservative philosophies.

*Takes a bow*
Thank you, Superheater. Please, tell your friends. We need them at the ballots...

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