Quote Of The Day

From Don Boudreaux. He’s addressing the Cato/Koch lawsuit*, but more specifically addressing the question of ideas-based ideological battles vs. the more common political election-based battles:

At the end of the day in any society, political office holders largely reflect the culture and climate of ideas that prevail in that society. The overwhelming effects of culture and the climate of opinion on actual, day-to-day policies over the long run are unseen. This unseen influence of culture and ideas is, I believe, as the underwater bulk of the iceberg is to the seen tip that looms above the water’s surface.

The seen tip of electoral politics and its current personalities are real; by all means deal with them as best as you can. But don’t ignore the larger, more hulking, ultimately far-more significant and determinative unseen bulk of ideas, prejudices, values, historical narratives, and other cultural elements that lie beneath the surface of electoral politics. Chop off today’s seen tip, and watch some other part of that ‘idea-berg’ rotate upward into view. Unless the ideas, broadly defined, that make up a nation’s political reality are changed, affecting the outcome of today’s election will do vanishingly little to change political reality over the long haul. The new part of the idea-berg that emerges above the surface to replace the lopped-off part will be just as anti-liberty as its predecessor.

This is why I don’t get too involved in the horse race. Sure, there might be a marginal difference in government policy if we replace Obama with Romney, Santorum, or Gingrich. But none of it is really going to move the needle. For as much as Santorum might be an extremist on SoCon issues, every one of the “mainstream” Republicans are likely to govern a lot more “centrist” than firebrand. Romney is a big-business moderate, Santorum is a pro-union “compassionate conservative”, and Gingrich wants big government, but wants it to be run in a lean Six Sigma efficient manner. And for a much of a hardcore socialist the Right has believed Obama was going to be, he’s largely deferred to let Congress craft the proposals put in place over his term, not played FDR power games.

Is there an answer that can change the iceberg? Maybe, but it’s a long game. Ron Paul is working on moving the needle, but he can’t get elected until the needle moves a lot farther than it has today. If the movement he’s started can continue to find new champions after the 2012 election, we might see meaningful change. But none of it will make any difference in November of this year.

* Obviously this whole Cato/Koch fight is big news in libertarian circles. I have neither the information nor personal feelings on any of the involved parties to have an opinion on the merits. So this post, tangential to the lawsuit or its merits, should not be taken as a defense or condemnation of either side.