This is my comment to a post by Richard Fernandez at his Belmont Club blog today, about Jim DeLong’s new book on the SIS–the ‘Special Interests State’:
To Wretchard and Mr. DeLong:
If ‘SIS’ is to be brought under control by “separating the fat from the bone,” the hostage from the hostage-taker, then it must be up to the hostage to break free or have the cops allied with the hostages—not with the takers—break down the door to free the hostage and arrest the hostage-taker. What would be the ‘crime’ which the hostages could have their police enforce?
How about Fiduciary Fraud Against The Taxpayer? Any rent-seeking that does not encompass all of the American people–not just select groups such as sugar growers or corn farmers or green energy firms–is the crime of Fiduciary Fraud Against the Taxpayer. If lobbyists and politicians faced jail time for the practice of rewarding the few at the expense of the many, you could shrivel SIS down to manageable size.
But then, as Leo Linbeck would be the first to note, such legislation is impossible in the current ‘structure’ of governance built by the duopoly. The key to politics for every politician is not in getting elected the first time; it is in getting re-elected ten or twenty times. The ‘structure’ built by the duopoly since 1972-1974 assures incumbency after winning election, and no change in the SIS is possible unless a new structure is put in place that addresses how best to reward incumbency.
In a flip of the structure built in the Progressive Era, the present structure rewards partisanship and punishes bipartisanship. Another way of putting it for conservatives and Left-liberals to consider, is that the SIS has been built since 1972-1974 by rewarding ideological extremism and punishing moderation. Every ardent Republican and Democratic scream for ‘loyalty,’ or their sneering contempt for RINO’s and DINO’s and centrism, feeds the SIS, not intentionally, but because that’s how the ‘structure’ fixes how incumbents practice politics, rewarded by re-election.
Until the structure is reformed to return to the early 20C concept of rewarding incumbency by practicing bipartisanship and moderation–instead of punishing them–then the SIS is likely “locked in” until the collapse of the republic. The collapse will likely occur because the rate of growth of the national costs of government outstripped the rate of growth of national income to pay for it (as in today’s Greece). The hostage-takers will win because in America since the mid-1970′s, extremism and partisanship are valued more in our politics than moderation and bipartisanship.
Sneer all you want at ‘moderates’ and ‘independents’ and ‘centrists,’ but understand, then you are perpetuating the newer structure’s reward of incumbency for extremists who achieve re-election by their skills at satisfying special interests’ rent-seeking. If conservatives are serious about solving the SIS, they will first have to take a hard look at themselves, and what degree of ideological purity they demand of their politicians.
Effectively, the unintended consequence of mid-70′s structural partisan loyalty is: the more partisan we are, the more the SIS will grow. This fact of our politics will continue so long as the duopoly mutually benefits from the structure they both created. The only practical means of creating a new structure is to form a viable third voice to take on the other two; how to reward incumbency is the key.[Email comments are welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org]