Guest author David Brin — scientist, technology consultant, best-selling author and futurist — explores the records of Democrats and Republicans on the US economy in the following post. For David’s latest posts, visit the CONTRARY BRIN blog. For his books and short stories, visit his website. And don’t miss David’s latest article, Maddow, Mueller and the dems push a dare at McConnell.
Courtesy of David Brin
Let’s step away from politics…. till the end of this missive… and look instead at economics:
The Evonomics site — where Adam Smith would post, today — offers this: Economists Agree: Democratic Presidents are Better at Making Us Rich. Eight Reasons Why.
The difference is stunning and inarguable… an average of 4.4% annual growth vs. a piddling 2.5%… and it has been consistent across 70 years. How to explain it?
The eight hypotheses offered here are interesting and consistent with modern economics. (Which “Supply Side voodoo” is not.) But #7 will resonate with what I have been saying to so-called market conservatives for years:
7. Fiscal Prudence. True conservatives pay their bills. From the 35 years of declining debt after World War II (until 1982), to the years of budget surpluses and declining debt under Bill Clinton, to the radical shrinking of the budget deficit under Obama, Democratic policies demonstrate which party merits the name “fiscal conservatives.”
Now, in fairness, a cogent Republican would answer: “Hey, weren’t there Republican Congresses during some of that time?” Yes, and that actually mattered once – during the anno mirabilis year 1995, when Newt Gingrich corralled enough GOP support and negotiated with Bill Clinton to give us both Welfare Reform and the Budget Act. We almost got a third miracle, when the bipartisan Danforth-Kerrey commission proposed a compromise Entitlements Reform package that would have secured our finances for decades while ensuring every American child got health care.
We know what happened then. Led by Dennis “friend to boys” Hastert, the Murdochian Republicans rendered the Danforth kind extinct, ending all semblance of adult politics in America. (And Newt knuckled under, instead of fighting for America.)
Proof that Clinton, not the GOP, merits credit for the Clinton surpluses is simple. Those surpluses turned red almost overnight in 2001. What changed politically? A shift in the White House, not Congress, Cause-and-effect. Subsequent Republican Congresses were the laziest in U.S. history, passing almost no bills and holding few non-Clinton-aimed hearings, except for eagerly passing Supply Side tax cuts for the uber-rich. But that’s another matter.
Alas, this list is incomplete. The best hypothesis for why the economy does better under democrats is left off is my addition:
#9: Under democratic presidents, regulators act to enforce the rule of law. That’s the chief function of the Executive Branch. And when there is a democratic president, his appointees actually try to make the duly legislated laws of the United States function in the best manner intended.
Yes, there are anecdotal examples of that being a bad thing! But negative in general? Dig it. Across 6000 years, all flat-fair-competitive markets were destroyed by cheaters (mostly feudal lords), until the recent invention of regulatory law… As recommended in Wealth of Nations. As we see in professional sports, you only get competition that is flat and fair when there’s regulation.
Yes, it is conservative dogma that all regulation’s bad! (On occasion, regulation can be cloying, as with the industry-captured ICC and CAB — the examples relentlessly cited by Ayn Rand — which were eliminated by… Democrats.) But is faithful execution of duly-enacted U.S. regulatory law negative in general? The actual evidence – both from 6000 years and the last 70 or so – suggests that the dogma is just plain wrong.
Oh, see this important Evonomics article, too! “Want to Kill Your Economy? Have MBA Programs Churn out Takers Not Makers”. Why has business education failed business?” If we and Russia were truly friends, we’d send them half our MBAs. Both economies would skyrocket!
And this Evonomics piece about Wall Street parasitism. These are the heirs of Adam Smith.
The ongoing civil war
One of our best essayist-historians avows that “The American civil war didn’t end. And Trump is a Confederate president.” Yes, I’ve been saying similar things about a resurgent Confederacy for almost two decades. In this case, Rebecca Solnit proposes that we’ve been fighting the same Civil War for 158 years. Moreover, the Confederacy has now accomplished what it never could in the 1860s, taking Washington.
Ms. Solnit further ascribes this phenomenon to a broad loathing of modern trends by White Males. (Though, indeed, weren’t they a majority of those who fought and died under the Blue, in earlier phases of this conflict?)
Most of you know my version of this is a bit more broad — that this “civil war” is a clash of culture going back much further, to the 1770s; it ebbs and surges in phases and we are now in Number Eight, a particularly nasty one that could go “hot” as described in Sean Smith’s novel “Tears of Abraham.”
We agree (as always) far more than we disagree. Still, as a Social Justice Warrior – albeit a brilliant one – Ms. Solnit can only see this ongoing conflict in terms of racism and sexism. Those certainly play major roles! But as historical psychologists have long known, the deepest undercurrent of confederate culture is romanticism — a tendency to clutch voluptuously resentful delusions and pledge fealty to a lordly caste.
In the 1770s that caste was the British monarchy and aristocracy that made Southerners more loyal to the Tory cause, and made them deeply abusive toward the Scots-Irish, deemed as sub-human. In the 1860s it was fealty to plantation lords. Today it is a fast-rising world oligarchy that red (gray-confederate) Americans far-prefer over the Union’s favored elites — men and women of skill and knowledge and productivity and science. That has always been a key divide: meritocratic achievement over inheritance and blood. Nazism was a notoriously romantic movement.
(An aside, one can understand the Gray Grudge better if you look what happens to small towns every June, after High School graduation, when the best and brightest quickly scurry off to blue universities and cities and all that impudent meritocracy-stuff. This annual trauma has been going on for more than a century, feeding an underlying simmer of hate, as we literally steal their children.)
This is not a zero-sum disagreement with Ms. Solnit. Attributing confederatism to embedded romantic culture does not excuse racism, sexism and all that! My explanation should only strengthen our resistance to this chronic, 250 year-old American affliction. See my earlier missives – Phases of the US Civil War…and about how phase 3 (1852-1860) needs especially to be remembered.
We’ve both shown that the average American is more likely to act heroically in any emergency, rather than with cowardice. (Solnit’s “A Paradise Built In Hell or her latest collection of essays on American crises: Call Them by Their True Names.) I’m enough of a fellow-traveller and ally to be glad she’s out there, spreading powerfully true memes. I still think calm generalship and tactics and understanding the enemy will matter, over the long run. But yes, there are occasions when pointed fury is more apropos than mere moderate militance! I am next to you, blue kepi on my head. We need altos and tenors, baritones and sopranos singing the Battle Hymn of the Republic.
Again, libertarians wise up!
I keep reaching out to an intellectual community that some of you dismiss as “hopeless.” Because I think it is worthwhile. And so I point to obvious things.
Flat-fair-open competition is the greatest creative force in the universe. Sound pretty “libertarian”? Ah, but for all of time, flat-fair-open competition was ruined by a destructive force… cheating. The mighty use their wealth & power to cheat and prevent competition from below, preserving their sons’ privilege to own other peoples’ daughters and sons. Across history this always wrecked the promise. Always.
The Enlightenment found a tentative way out of this trap. It gradually improved 5 great competitive arenas, markets, democracy, science, courts and sports. All are tightly regulated to prevent inevitable cheating. And cheaters innovate! Hence a need for revised or new regulations. Imagine a sporting league without rules or referees, but with massive money rewards at stake. Watch Rollerball.
Liberals tend to frown at the word “competition.” Conservatives snarl at “regulation.” When it is only Regulated Competition that ever worked! Yes, over-regulation can cloy or get captured. But again, who banished the captured ICC and CAB and broke up AT&T? Replace GOP with POC… the Party of Cheaters.
Meanwhile libertarians have completely abandoned the “c-word” that should be their center… “competition” in favor of “property.” Ignore that it’s Democrats who are ending the Drug War, who are taking the Law out of your bedrooms. It’s Democrats under whom entrepreneurialism always does better. That’s always. Ask any libertarian and he won’t care about any of that. The goal of Steve Forbes and Rupert Murdoch and the Kochs is to to have them hold their noses and vote Republican, because “the GOP is ‘slightly less bad”. And that’s enough.
Keep these Mensa-type, underachieving nerds ignoring 6000 years of history, Pay for some pizza and some ego-flattering meme-rants and they’ll trust that the fast-rising conniving cabals of oligarchs won’t re-impose the great enemy of freedom — feudalism. This time — we pinkie swear we won’t!
Oligarchs are blocked from total power by fact folks and civil servants… so pour hate on those dedicated folks!
Oh, those 5 great competitive arenas, markets, democracy, science, courts and sports? They all thrive to exactly the extent that all participants can clearly see what’s going on. Transparency. All five wither and dies amid clots and cancerous clouds of secrecy.
End to Gerrymandering?
It is within range of possibility – one could pray and hope – that John Roberts will decide to personally save America and Western Civilization and all our hopes for an advanced and decent human future. One ruling – this one – could be how his name will echo down time, either like Roger Taney or like Earl Warren, perhaps reversing the cheating that has stolen American democracy.
Yes, one of the worst gerrymanderers is Maryland… one of the last holdouts amid a wave of voter-led reform in Blue States. Watch as Obama and Holder and other top dems file amicus briefs against Maryland democrats, in part because this crime is now MOSTLY a Red cheat, of course. But also because it is an outrageous crime.
How to fix it? Past SCOTUS rulings evaded the issue, saying they could not see a simple remedy. Bull. Almost any nonpartisan commission would eliminate 80% of the travesty. But we now know excellent mathematical metrics to maximize “voter efficiency.” Moreover, I have offered a plan that answers every known GOP objection. Unlike all others, it even retains “state legislature sovereignty!” It allows one of each state’s three chambers to be gerrymandered and STILL corrects the injustice!
“Today’s (2018) Congress is dominated by party leaders and functions as a junior partner to the executive,” according to an analysis by The Washington Post and ProPublica.
On the other hand, the newly elected Congress will be younger, more female and more diverse, than ever before.
Has there been electoral cheating? See my article on Medium: Henchmen: We are watching.
Post-election, carry forward your determination to save civilization. Have a look at Lawrence Lessig’s new campaign — to end super-PACS in America.