Category Archives: Election ’12

Why Democracy Doesn’t Work, Evidence #1,083

Over at Ezra Klein’s place, Dylan Matthews points to the fact that elections are driven by the economy (and in some years, by war). And that George McGovern, who died yesterday, gets a bit of a bad rap based on the fact that he was up against an incumbent President presiding over a rapidly-expanding economy and a major drop in Vietnam casualties during his first term.

He points to a model from political scientist Douglas Hibbs, called the “Bread & Peace” model. And uses this chart as a telling guide:

Seems pretty clear to me. When the economy is doing well, the incumbents do well. When the economy is in the crapper, the incumbents get tossed out.

That makes perfect sense if we assume that the incumbent party (Congress or the President) has a big impact on the performance of the national economy. But I don’t think there’s any evidence to support this. Business cycles tend to occur in many ways orthogonal to political cycles. Policy tends to have long-running effects on the economy, but it’s measured in decades, not electoral cycles.

It’s pretty clear that voters are not really answering the question of “who is more qualified to lead us?”, or even “who has better policies?” The question they’re answering is merely “am I doing good right now? If not, whoever is in charge is obviously to blame!” Which causes me to ask a question (one Dylan Matthews doesn’t think to ask): if elections are driven by factors often widely outside the realm of short-term election cycles, why exactly do we think that elections are a good way to decide who to put into power?

About the only acceptable answer to that question that I can find is “it’s a better system than any others we’ve tried.” Frankly, such an answer doesn’t inspire confidence.

And further, when elections are driven by forces outside the candidates’ control, how exactly can we sit idly by and let politicians claim a mandate for their policies based upon the fact that they’ve won office? Voters don’t know what will fix the economy (nor do most politicians, frankly). But I guarantee that if Romney wins, it will be claimed as a mandate that the policies of Obama are to blame for our failure to generate an economic recovery, and that Romney’s policies are much better for all of us*.

Every four years, America goes through a big circle jerk to congratulate ourselves for “freedom” and representative democracy. After all, we get to choose who represents us in Washington and we have an inherent assumption that the fact that we’ve voted for them indicates that we have given them a vote of confidence. Yet we have a Congress with a approval rate in the teens and a re-election rate usually well above 90%, and we have Presidential contests that are usually decided based upon the growth of the economy rather than the qualities of the individual candidates.

But when I point out that we, as a people, don’t do a very good job deciding who to send to Washington, so just maybe we should limit the amount of power they’re allowed to wield, I’m suddenly a libertarian extremist?
» Read more

Atlas Shrugged Part II in Theaters This Weekend

Atlas Shrugged Part II is opening this weekend. Want to check it out? Follow this link to find a theater near you.

And now, the official Atlas Shrugged Part II trailer:

Quote of the Day: Small Things Edition

[I]f you don’t have any fresh ideas, then you use stale tactics to scare voters. If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.

And you know what? It’s worked before, because it feeds into the cynicism we all have about government. When Washington doesn’t work, all its promises seem empty. If your hopes have been dashed again and again, then it’s best to stop hoping and settle for what you already know.

That was then Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. This (below) is President Obama’s campaign in 2012:

If ending the federal subsidy to PBS doesn’t qualify as a “small thing” being used to distract from a failing president’s record, I don’t know what does.

Hat Tip: Jason Pye at United Liberty

Why America’s “Third-Party Airline” Shouldn’t Sponsor The Debates

The Commission on Presidential Debates has been coming under a lot of fire for their exclusion of third parties this year, due largely to the fact that Gary Johnson is polling at 6% nationally and happens to be suing them* at the moment. As Reason points out, they’ve already lost three national sponsors, and are currently at a lower overall sponsor number than any previous debate.

But they still have seven national sponsors, one of which is Southwest Airlines. Southwest Airlines seems like a strange company to participate in an exclusionary political sham**, given their history as a minority carrier in the market, and the fact that they so clearly buck industry trends.

So I’m sending them the below letter. Southwest is, IMHO, opposed to the very sort of exclusionary pull that the CPD is trying to push. I’d recommend that others write, call, etc to let them know how you feel***. If you’d like, feel free to use the below as your own template (although I note that it’s too long for their email submission form, so I’m sending it by US mail).

The CPD is perpetuating a sham, and has lost three national sponsors. Let’s try to make it four.

Dear Southwest Airlines,

I am writing today to express my surprise and dismay to learn that you are a sponsor of the Commission on Presidential Debates. While I understand your goal – to create an informed electorate in American participatory democracy – I don’t believe that the CPD’s practices are beneficial to the national dialogue. Further, I don’t believe that their exclusionary policy towards third-party candidates is consistent with the ethos of Southwest Airlines, the very successful “third-party” airline.

Southwest was a beneficiary of airline deregulation – of ending the system that said that every bit of air travel should be controlled by the Civil Aeronautics Board, including fares and routes of service. Southwest was forced to defend their right to fly even intrastate flights without submission to the CAB in court, an action that rose all the way to the US Supreme Court. Southwest was unable to expand into interstate routes until deregulation occurred and the CAB was dismantled. Of all enterprises, Southwest Airlines should be especially sensitive to the abuses of monopoly/oligopoly powers.

Today, the Commission on Presidential Debates is akin to the CAB. It is a body wholly run by, and for the benefit of, the Republican and Democrat Parties. Its goals are to keep third-party candidates (and by extension, third-party ideas) out of the public eye. It’s no different than the CAB only allowing approved airlines to fly interstate routes, with one exception: it’s a field far more important than air travel – the very decision of who will exert political power over American citizens.

Two minor-party candidates will be on the ballot in enough states to have a mathematical possibility of winning 270 electoral votes; Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Jill Stein of the Green Party. While I certainly think it’s unlikely that either has a credible chance to win, I find it deplorable that Southwest Airlines would support a debate organization that won’t even offer them the chance to stand on stage and offer an alternative to the major parties.
I personally believe that Southwest Airlines continues to exist in the marketplace because you are different; you have more efficient business practices that allow you to streamline operations, offering lower-cost flights while still remaining profitable. Your very existence also forces the major carriers to change their practices to meet your competition. Free competition – the competition that CPD is insulating the major parties from – causes all players in the market to improve.

You offer your customers a choice, yet by your sponsorship of CPD you support a debate organization that hides choice from Americans.

I don’t believe Southwest Airlines would appreciate a monopoly action by American and United determining which airlines were entitled to land US airports. Nor do I think Southwest Airlines should sponsor a debate organizer who determines which voices are entitled to reach the ears of the American voter. As a business traveler, I fly Southwest several times each year. I do so because you offer me a compelling product not available from the major carriers. I humbly ask that you reconsider your sponsorship of an organization that won’t allow a compelling non-major product a platform in America’s most competitive product arena – our very governance.

Regards,
Brad Warbiany

» Read more

Resistance is Not Always Futile

There’s no question that the 2012 campaign has been full of disappointments for those of us who want less government, more liberty, and more prosperity in our lives. Very clearly, the game is rigged in large part due to the establishment media, powerful special interest groups, and the political parties themselves. It’s very easy to become disillusioned by the entire process and sometimes it’s tempting to give up and say “to hell with it!”

But rather than bring down you readers out there (as I often do), I want to share something very inspiring with you from Cato’s David Boaz (below). In Boaz’s lecture, he explains how everyday heroism hastened the demise of the Soviet Union. We libertarians complain – often with good reason, about how difficult it is for our voices to be heard in the two party system. For all practical purposes, the U.S.S.R. had only one political party and dissent was strongly discouraged…to put it mildly.

Yet somehow, ordinary people were able to rise up, demand the liberties we all too often take for granted, and prevailed! How did they do it? What can we learn from how these ordinary people brought down the Evil Empire, and more importantly, how can we apply these lessons here in the US?

1 2 3 4 5 23