Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“You have put your finger on the dilemma of all government, and the reason I am an anarchist. The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits; it contains until it destroys.”     Robert A. Heinlein,    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

March 5, 2010

Ezra Klein And The Seeds Of Cynicism

by Brad Warbiany

One of Ezra’s regular commenters is running for Congress, and had this to say:

You are way off, Ezra. The time breakdown on fundraising during a campaign is more like 50-70%. It’s absolutely horrifying. I used to be a policy wonk who could talk the most minute details of big bills and who actually read most of the health care bill. Now that I’m running in the XXXX XXXX (Dem primary), I spend all my time meeting with prospective donors and cold-calling past Dem donors. It’s sad that when I’m the closest I’ve ever been to shaping policy, I’m also spending the least time in the past decade focused on immersing myself in it.

I’m not surprised. I long ago lost faith in the system, and have said for a very long time that it is structurally incapable of fixing its problems. The more I study (and having just finished Hayek’s “The Fatal Conceit” I’ve studied from the master), I think that fundamentally the problem is not solvable.

But Ezra hasn’t reached that point yet. He’s still wondering why the power-brokers don’t want to break down the system which gives them power:

What I can’t understand, though, is why the drumbeat for public funding of elections isn’t loudest within Congress itself. After all, congresspeople regularly say that they hate this part of the job. When they retire, they complain about it constantly. And yet, they don’t seem particularly interested in changing it, even though they would be the most direct beneficiaries. I guess the answer is that once you’ve constructed a fundraising network you have an enormous advantage over competitors who have to do all that work from scratch, and so blocking campaign finance reform makes continued reelection more likely. But can that really be worth the day-to-day misery?

Now, the difference between Ezra Klein and I in this case is hope. He has hope — albeit false hope — that the system is fixable. I’ve lost that hope and think it’s just time to stop asking the system to fix problems in the first place.

Michael Cannon of Cato is a healthcare buff and more of a regular foe of Ezra Klein, and he has predicted that “Ezra Klein will die a libertarian. And it won’t be a deathbed conversion, either.” There may come the day when he battles so hard — in vain — to fix the system that he realizes that he’s tilting at windmills. Perhaps Cannon is correct. Klein is young enough — and smart enough — to learn that yes, in fact, politicians care so much about retaining their power that they’ll endure all sorts of misery to continue to “serve”. Raised in close view of the dysfunctional government of California, and now seeing the dysfunction of the Senate first-hand in the health-care debate, he’s unlikely to maintain his faith much longer.

Klein approaches the healthcare debate much the same way that I once advocated for the FairTax. He assumes that the issue is important enough to transcend politics and interest groups. He assumes not only that Congress can create a fair, compassionate, cost-effective government run system without unnecessary rationing, but also that they’ll actually ignore all their incentives to saddle it with restrictions, appease interest groups, and throw so many government (& union) provisions into the works to push the cost into the stratosphere. Much like I once thought that the idea of the FairTax was so compelling that Congress would respond to voters and common sense and act counter to their own electoral interests to enact it “as written”. He’ll be proven wrong, of course. My only hope is that it doesn’t require such a monstrosity to be enacted to make him see the error of his ways.

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1 Comment

  1. “Ezra Klein will die a libertarian…”

    Stated differently, Klein will one day realize that all politicians are, by definition, moral defectives.

    Until then, his opinions are, by definition, worthless.

    Comment by KipEsquire — March 5, 2010 @ 6:12 am

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