Saturday, October 30, 2010

"Real America"

With the growing antagonism from the right against the "elites" who don't know "Real America," generally defined as white, small-town, and religious, I thought I would offer a reality check:

Where do most Americans live, and where will the next 100 million live? In metropolitan areas. Currently, eighty-three percent of Americans live in the country's 361 metropolitan areas, as defined by the US Census. Another six percent live in "exurbia" outside these metropolitan areas and rely on their closest metro area for their livelihood. These percentages are projected to increase, continuing a 200-year trend. (Source: Christopher Leinberger, The Option of Urbanism)

Maybe the last 11% of Americans that still live in small-town America should get with the picture and join Real America, that is, urban America. There's something quintessentially conservative about defining Real America as something that has been on terminal decline for centuries.

Friday, October 29, 2010

"Tyranny" (III)

You couldn't ask for a clearer depiction of the dangers of allowing the steady erosion of civil liberties. The right's supreme hack, Jonah Goldberg, provides it:

[Wikileaks founder Julian Assange] told the New Yorker earlier this year that he fully understands innocent people might die as a result of the "collateral damage" of his work and that WikiLeaks may have "blood on our hands." WikiLeaks is easily among the most significant and well-publicized breaches of American national security since the Rosenbergs gave the Soviets the bomb.
So again, I ask: Why wasn't Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago?
It's a serious question.

Very American, killing whistleblowers. Also, keep in mind that his crap about Wikileaks endangering lives has been debunked by the Pentagon, of all places. Now, I'll be fair, he manages to write the column in a way that ensures he's not actually advocating for the death of Assange. But then we come to the really telling line:

Even if the CIA wanted to take him out, they couldn't without massive controversy. That's because assassinating a hipster Australian Web guru as opposed to a Muslim terrorist is the kind of controversy no official dares invite.

The casual acceptance that it's okay to kill Muslims but not Westerners is nauseating. But I think Goldberg's flippant attitude toward assassination is even more depressing. There's no objection on the grounds that it would be wrong to assassinate Assange, just that it would cause controversy. That controversy, no doubt, would be ginned up by pinko terrorist sympathizers like Glenn Greenwald, Radley Balko, Will Wilkinson, or Conor Friedersdorf, only one of whom is really a liberal. In Goldberg's ideal world, extrajudicial assassination is cool, as long as he thinks the guy being killed is a bad dude. That's certainly the view of most of National Review's writers.

Christian Whiton is less circumspect:

Here are some of the things the U.S. could do:
[...]
2. Explore opportunities for the president to designate WikiLeaks and its officers as enemy combatants, paving the way for non-judicial actions against them.

Yep. Welcome to the conservative love for liberty, ladies and gentlemen!

Snow Crash

I just finished reading Neal Stephenson's novel "Snow Crash". It was written in the late 80s and early 90s, and is set in an unspecified future dystopian United States. The government doesn't exist in any form that would be recognizable to today's Americans. It's a world where everything is privatized and franchised, from Mr Lee's Greater Hong Kong to the mafia-run CosaNostra pizza delivery to Reverend Wayne's Pearly Gates. Several times throughout the book a character quips, "if there were still laws..." Which is to say, it's a bit over the top, but it still hits uncomfortably close to home at times.

The prisons, for example, are franchised out just like fast food. If you're sent to jail, you're taken to a franchise of "The Hoosegow" or "The Clink." Like all franchises, they're run out of a 3-ring binder by a mindless bureaucrat. The military no longer exists as an organ of the state, but as private mercenary armies with names like General Jim's Defense System and Admiral Bob's Global Security.

Why do I say this hits close to home? Well, replace the silly names like General Jim's with Blackwater, DynCorp, Raytheon, or Titan. We already have private armies running around largely unsupervised, unaccountable, and unscrutinized (though Jeremy Scahill works tirelessly to correct that). As for prisons, well:

Private companies in the United States operate 264 correctional facilities, housing almost 99,000 adult offenders. Companies operating such facilities include the Corrections Corporation of America, the GEO Group, Inc, and Community Education Centers.

Again, the names aren't as cheesy, but the underlying idea is startlingly close.

On a less serious note, Stephenson's vaunted Metaverse, in which the characters interact in virtual reality, bears a startling resemblance to Second Life. In one scene, a Kourier (basically a skate-board courier) describes her lack of helmet by explaining that there's an airbag in the collar of her jumpsuit. Well, lo and behold, there's a company working on exactly that for bicyclists! It's a good thing "Snow Crash" was written before Windows, because now it would be named "Blue Screen of Death." In addition to not having the same ring to it, the change would also screw up a central plot point of the story, so perhaps it's better this way. 

Overall, it was a very excellent book, chock full of humor, with a characteristically compelling story. It's the second Stephenson novel I've read, after "Diamond Age," and I highly recommend both books.

Green shoots for sanity on the drug war?

Conrad Black has a scathing piece up at National Review:

There is room for legitimate argument about what course the U.S. should follow in drug-control policy, but there is no possible dispute that the present course has been such an unmitigated failure that it has aggravated the societal problem, strained relations with friendly foreign countries and destabilized some, and, as Milton Friedman said in 1991, constituted a protectionist bonanza for the most virulent and sociopathic elements of organized crime. In comparison, Prohibition, which handed the liquor business to Al Capone and his analogues, was a howling success, and it was repealed after 14 years. Surely, we can do better than this. But as with most other urgent issues, we are completing a pyrotechnic midterm-election campaign with scarcely a peep being raised on a subject that affects almost half the population of the United States.

(HT: the Dish)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I love Congress (Part MCXIV)

ProPublica has a big piece up about the "New Democrat" coalition and their close ties to the business community. A taste:

"We're working hard with you to get the policy right," [Wisconsin Democrat Ron] Kind told lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs and others.


We're in good hands.

Stay classy, Yankee fans

Maybe Cliff Lee to the Bronx isn't such a done deal:

Fans' treatment of Cliff Lee's wife at Yankee Stadium might not help the Yankees' recruitment of one of the game's top left-handed pitchers.
During the AL Championship Series games in New York between the Yankees and Rangers, fans were extremely rude to Kristen Lee, spitting and throwing beer in her direction and shouting obscenities, according to USA Today.

Transit policy is screwing me over (II)

Josh Barro (a conservative!) seems to largely agree with me in this piece at RealClearMarkets:

Critics of higher gas taxes will note that some gas tax revenue is diverted to non-highway purposes. That's true, but the amount was only $24 billion in 2008, less than half the amount of general revenue diverted to highways. $15 billion of the gas tax diversion was to mass transit, whose use produces positive externalities for drivers by reducing traffic. And that $24 billion only approximately offsets the value of a major tax preference for drivers: the fact that in almost all states, gasoline sales are not subject to general sales tax. Overall, drivers are net recipients of a significant and growing government subsidy, which a change to the gas tax could help offset.

I don't agree with his last line, necessarily, that this should be used as an excuse to then extend the Bush tax cuts. But overall, very good piece.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Wikileaks part 2

On Friday, Wikileaks dropped a few hundred thousand documents from the Iraq War. (Why on Friday? Friday is when you release things you want nobody to read!) This gives me an excuse to return to the topic of Wikileaks and responsible leaking. It turns out that the Pentagon has concluded that nobody was put at risk as a result of the Wikileaks document dump. While I'm not as gung-ho and angry about this as Glenn Greenwald, it does make me a bit more sanguine about the latest leak. Frankly, I think the Pentagon is right to be worried about the safety of its personnel. But in the end, most of these documents probably shouldn't be classified in the first place.

I'll be keeping tabs on Danger Room as they dig through this latest trove.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lying about Venice

IMG_8207

The Economist points out some propaganda paintings showing blue skies and sun in Venice:

THE sun always shines in Venice; the sky is always blue. This is how visitors like to remember that most beautiful island city. Not coincidentally, that is how Canaletto most often painted the place. His clients, after all, were Grand Tourists, many of them back home in dark English country houses, worrying about farm rents. They longed for the gorgeous, licentious place their memories turned into paradise.
The fact is that in the 18th century and today, Venice would win the title of bronchitis capital of the world if such a contest existed.

Damn right. I remember Venice as being smelly, wet, rainy, and incredibly overpriced. I saw it once, and I have no desire to go back. It's sunnier at the Venetian in Vegas.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bus quirks

I'm only a poser in comparison to Seattle's Bus Chick (I still own a car), but a lot of these still hit close to home. Particularly the favorite seat. I'm always a bit thrown when I can't get my seat for whatever reason.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Transit policy is screwing me over

Roads are paid for via taxes, mostly on gas. This is widely accepted, to the point where nobody even thinks about it. If I drive to work, I only indirectly pay for the roads via the gas tax. That's $0.45 per gallon in Minnesota, including federal and local taxes.

So why am I expected to pay $2.25 every time I take a bus during rush hour? Metro Transit, like most mass transit systems and unlike most roads, is expected to provide a large part (currently about one third) of its own funding through fees and fares. In order to pay the same amount commuting to work via car as I do commuting by bus, I would have to use up 10 gallons of gas every day. Needless to say, I don't. I'm actually punished financially for riding the bus, which has all kinds of positive externalities.

Part of the answer, of course, is that the money from fuel taxes goes overwhelmingly to highways, rather than transit. Why are we funding the less efficient method of transportation with more negative externalities (see warming, global) at a far higher rate than mass transit?

These prices are way out of whack with the actual costs involved. A proper price on carbon would help.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Why normal people don't run for office (II)

David Brooks takes on the issue in a column that mostly reads like a hagiography of Mark Kirk:

Today’s political environment encourages narcissism and inflames insecurity.
[...]
[P]eople who run for public office put themselves in a position in which everybody is inclined to believe the worst about them. The things that are ripe for ridicule become famous. The accomplishments fade from view. The cynics of the world, which includes almost everybody when it comes to politics, write you off as a sleazeball because it feels so good and superior to do so.

Megan McArdle has her own ideas of what to do with people who are obsessive and boring enough to successfully navigate the Facebook age without something embarrassing coming out: round them up and put them in camps.

The very model of a modern US President

Via Sullivan, this is quite awesome:



And damn you Aaron Sorkin, for making me a sucker for Gilbert and Sullivan references.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The origins of the religious right

Will Wilkinson has an interesting post over at DiA exploring the transformation that protestant politics underwent during the cold war. I don't really know what to make of it. It doesn't seem particularly applicable, but it sure is interesting reading:

Before yesterday it had never occurred to me that America's distinctive brand of evangelical conservatism—its peculiar marriage of mythic American nationalism with a personal, emotionally intense relationship with Jesus Christ—is not an entirely bottom-up phenomenon, but is to some extent the creation of Eisenhower-era government propaganda and the PR heft of William Randolph Hearst. (That's what certain secular-humanist documentary producers want us to believe!) I look forward to one day seeing this remarkable chain of historical influences mapped out more fully on Glenn Beck's revelatory blackboard.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Citizens United and Free Speech

Matt Steinglass over at the Economist has one of the better arguments I've heard against the Citizens United ruling:

That said, there are (at least) two different reasons for embracing the principle of free speech. The first is that a healthy democracy requires a vibrant sphere of public political debate. This is an instrumental reason to encourage free speech. The second is that the right to voice your own opinions and convictions is inherent in the dignity of every human being. This is a moral axiom. Corporations may stake a claim to the first justification. Not being human beings, they have no claim to the second. As far as I can tell, the majority opinion in Citizens United cites exclusively the first, instrumental justification for protecting free speech. But that first justification, being instrumental, raises the question of whether certain forms of political communication are in fact likely to contribute to a vibrant sphere of public political debate. It has been my experience that in general, the more a form of political communication costs, the less it contributes to healthy political discourse. The argument that treating a corporation's purchase of millions of dollars of televised attack ads differently from an individual's statement of an opinion in a town-hall debate amounts to discrimination or repression seems to me the product of calculated naivete on the court's part.

I've tended to focus on the court's failure to rule narrowly, as I don't have the legal chops to argue about a corporation's right to free political speech. The problem here, I suppose, is trying to make that distinction of what speech is healthy and what speech is unhealthy. Who decides? It's much easier to make an argument for absolute rights that are applied totally consistently. Shades of gray are much harder to defend. 

One also has to be cognizant of the fact that its fairly easy for a large corporation to buy TV ads, but basically impossible for all but the richest individuals to do so. It's not exactly a level playing field. But is that something the court should take into account when ruling on free speech? It makes me a bad wannabe pundit, but I don't know.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Why normal people don't run for office

I made comment a while back that "borderline psychopaths" are the only people who run for elected office. Via Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens has more on why that's true:

Consider: What normal person would consider risking their career and their family life in order to undergo the incessant barrage of intrusive questioning about every aspect of their lives since well before college? To face the constant pettifogging and chatter of Facebook and Twitter and have to boast of how many false friends they had made in a weird cyberland? And if only that was the least of it. Then comes the treadmill of fundraising and the unending tyranny of the opinion polls, which many media systems now use as a substitute for news and as a means of creating stories rather than reporting them. And, even if it "works," most of your time in Washington would be spent raising the dough to hang on to your job. No wonder that the best lack all conviction.

Who on earth wants to go through all that? Campaign finance reform would help, but a complete change in political and media culture is necessary before a halfway normal person would consider running for office. Until then, we'll continue to get the oblivious narcissists with massive egos that run for office now.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Day in Obvious

Greenwald quotes a new study:

Pape. . . will present findings on Capitol Hill Tuesday that argue thatthe majority of suicide terrorism around the world since 1980 has had a common cause: military occupation.

You mean people don't like military occupation?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Nuclear Security

This is a rather scary video and report about some old nuclear gravity bomb storage areas in Belgium:

When the Bombspotters pulled off this stunt in January, it seemed a small group of activists had succeeded in penetrating one of two sets of 11 Hardened Aircraft Shelters (HAS).  It seemed as though they were in the middle of a cluster that happened not to have B61 nuclear gravity bombs in Ws3 shelters, though that hardly excused the the woeful performance turned in by Belgian security or the lame excuses offered by the Belgian government.

There a couple of things wrong here. One: how were a bunch of hippies able to enter a military base that contained nuclear weapon storage facilities? And two: why are the damn Belgians guarding our nukes? I mean, I get that they're our intrepid NATO allies and all, but it seems to me that if we're going to go through the effort of basing nukes in Belgium, we damn well better have a bunch of American troops and MPs guarding the place. As the video points out, these were peace activists, but what if they were terrorists? Not exactly a shining moment for our military.

September Jobs Numbers

So this will be fun. According to the BLS:

Nonfarm payroll employment edged down (-95,000) in September, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 9.6 percent. Government employment declined (-159,000), reflecting both a drop in the number of temporary workers for Census 2010 and job losses in local government. Private-sector payroll employment continued to trend up modestly (+64,000).

So, Republicans (and conservative/clueless Democrats) continually bash public sector jobs, refuse to extend additional aid to cash strapped states, and even propose further slashing the budget, which would cause even more layoffs. Unsurprisingly, this means the public sector continues to shed jobs, even while the private sector adds jobs. Now, given these numbers, do you think GOP leaders will acknowledge this? No, it will be more "Obama's failed economic policies aren't creating jobs." They won't acknowledge that their obstruction helped cause that job loss and that their proposed policies, such as they are, would hugely exacerbate that problem. Instead, it will be Obama's fault.

In reality, while 64k private sector jobs is about 300k fewer than we need to be creating, the economy is at least adding some jobs. Unfortunately, we're not doing the simplest thing to help the economy, which is extending aid to state and local governments to prevent layoffs of teachers, cops and firefighters. On the other hand, since these are the last numbers before the midterms (and they suck), the GOP's strategy will pay off--they're going to win handsomely in November.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On means-testing

Reihan has a post up about Britain's Tory government and their effort to means-test various benefits. He quotes James Forsythe:

Now, if you accept that the poor are currently being taxed to provide child benefits for the rich (a slight exaggeration given that higher rate taxpayers contribute far more than they take out in services) then this argument applies with equal force to all other universal benefits. Why should someone on £17,000 a year pay taxes to help cover the cost of Felicity Kendall’s pension or Judi Dench’s winter fuel payment?
Labour understands this point and that Osborne has, as I say in the magazine this week, laid a trap for them: if they accept the child benefit cut they’ll be accepting a shift from a welfare state to a welfare safety net.

I just wanted to point out that in the US, we're still struggling to set up a proper safety net. That said, it still makes sense to save some money in the states by means-testing Medicare and Social Security. Note that the hated Obamacare already is. The amount of subsidy offered for insurance depends on income. As the country tries to get its balance sheet back in order, means-testing is a logical place to look.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

We're screwed. But at least we deserve it.

As my misguided friend over at the Great Wahl points out, FritoLay has abandoned its biodegradable bag for SunChips in the face of plummeting sales. Let me just align myself with everything Mother Jones' outstanding environmental reporter Kate Sheppard had to say:

Of course everyone is entitled to have opinions about the relative aesthetics of consumer products, but should those really trump the environmental benefits? In the grand scheme of things, this is the absolute, bare-minimum level of sacrifice Americans are asked to make. They still get to eat the same chips, they just come from a different bag; they still light their homes, but with a slightly different bulb. But apparently that's still too much. Even worse is the fact that Americans can't muster the support to pass a climate bill, but a bunch of angry couch potatoes can successfully mobilize to force Frito-Lay to drop their innovative packaging. If the sound of a crinkly eco-chip bag is too much to handle, then the human species really is screwed.

Seriously, people. Sometimes progress takes sacrifice. And in this case that sacrifice was a slightly louder bag. Apparently we're not even willing to endure that. No wonder we can't get comprehensive climate change legislation. If we won't let our junk food packaging inconvenience us, no way are people going to support rising energy prices.

Yep, today is one of those days where I just hate people.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

We are so totally screwed.

Ezra Klein points to some wonderful graphs by Neil Irwin. Irwin's interactive graphs show, much more clearly, what I was trying to get at back in this post. Basically, there's a huge gap between the pre-recession trend and actual GDP growth. It's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to get back to full employment if we continue this anemic growth. A robust recovery generally sees GDP growth above the pre-recession average, which enables GDP to return to trend quickly. That hasn't happened this time; in fact, we're seeing GDP growth below pre-recession average, which is creating a huge gap between our potential output and actual output.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Security Theater (II)

Yglesias is pretty fed up with Terror Alerts:

The point is that policy and discourse around terrorism are dangerously lacking in perspective or any kind of reasonable cost-benefit analysis. People die of nut allergies every year, but we don’t enact a nationwide ban on nuts; it would be insane and incredibly annoying. But nobody in office seems interested in running the math on what kind of safety modern-day airport liquid bans and shoe-removal procedures are buying us or at what cost. No tradeoffs are discussed between fighting terrorism and fighting ordinary crime, or trying to reduce motorcycle accidents (which kill many more people than 9/11 each and every year), or simply the wealth and convenience gained by hassle-free air travel. But terrorism hurts us most not when it kills people, but when it uses our own clouded judgment as a force multiplier that inspires us to weaken ourselves in a thousand ways big and small.

Tim Pawlenty and Reading Comprehension

Today, our intrepid 2012 presidential hopeful tweeted a link to an article in the Wall Street Journal that reports on St Paul-based 3M's decision to restructure its retiree health benefits in response to the new health care landscape as Obamacare goes into effect. He describes is as "more proof Obamacare is a failure." I'm guessing he (or his flunky that runs the twitter account) didn't actually read the article. For example:

"As you know, the recently enacted health care reform law has fundamentally changed the health care insurance market," the memo said. "Health care options in the marketplace have improved, and readily available individual insurance plans in the Medicare marketplace provide benefits more tailored to retirees' personal needs often at lower costs than what they pay for retiree medical coverage through 3M.

So, to recap, Obamacare is making private health insurance plans better and cheaper than those offered through 3M. As a result, 3M is going to phase out their own program that has been made superfluous. That sounds to me like smashing success, not failure. Then there's this:

Democrats that crafted the legislation say they tried to incentivize companies to keep their retiree coverage intact, especially until 2014. The law creates a $5 billion fund for employers and unions to offset the cost of retiree health benefits. More than 2,000 entities, including many large public companies, have already been approved to submit claims for such reimbursement. 3M did not apply.

"We would certainly welcome their application," said Reid Cherlin, a spokesman for the White House.

If 3M had wanted, they could have gotten monetary assistance through the ACA to keep retiree benefits. They didn't bother, because the private insurance market was becoming more efficient and affordable. Perhaps next time T-Paw can try actually reading the article and having some understanding of health care policy.

As a side note, wonks can also rejoice, since there's bipartisan agreement (among policy types, not necessarily pols) that severing the link between employers and insurance is a critical step to getting our health care system into some semblance of order. 3M is demonstrating that Obamacare is one small step in that direction.

EDIT: Kevin Drum caught whiff of this article and had much the same argument I did.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

On Wonky Conservatism

I try not to insulate myself completely from conservative thought. I don't want to cocoon myself in a bubble of writers I largely agree with, never challenging my assumptions. The problem I run into is that there are a lot of really bad conservative writers out there. Cheap demagoguery does not do much to enhance my understanding of any particular issue. As a result, I stay away from Big Government and RedState.com, just as I stay away from Daily Kos, HuffPo and FDL.

However, this leaves precious little in the way of conservative writing to follow. The ones I've settled on and added to my RSS feed are Ross Douthat at the Times and his co-author Reihan Salam's blog at NRO. I also read The American Scene, Conor Friedersdorf and Dave Weigel, whose politics are hard to pin down, but can usually loosely be characterized as libertarian. When something by Jim Manzi pops up on twitter or something, I'm always sure to read his take, as well.

The big takeaway I get from reading these authors is caution about the limits of government intervention's ability to fix things. Salam and his co-authors at The Agenda don't deny that there are huge issues with our health-care system, for example. There's none of the grandstanding "greatest health-care system in the world" rhetoric that you get from a Michelle Bachmann. Instead, you get a constant refrain of caution and acknowledgment of the limits of the government's ability to fix problems without making them worse.

I get that, I really do. But we face some very serious problems in this country. And every time liberals come up with a proposal to address one of them, it is demagogued by movement conservatives, and picked apart by the wonky conservatives. During the health care debate, cost controls were demagogued by the Sarah Palins of the world (death panels!) while the Reihan Salams and David Brookses of the world lamented the lack of cost controls in the bill. There was no way to win for the Democrats.

There certainly is a place for a "loyal opposition." And the opposition offered by conservative wonks like Salam and Douthat is certainly helpful. In fact, the Wyden/Bennet health care bill was based on just the sort of common ground that wonks on both sides of the aisle can find. I probably would have preferred it to the PPACA, but it had no chance at getting passed. (One of the other bloggers at the Agenda pointed this out the other day.) The problem is that right now, mainstream conservatives are nowhere near the same positions as wonky conservatives like Reihan and his co-bloggers.

I noted above that the Wyden/Bennet bill didn't have much support on either side of the aisle. This gets back to something that Mr. Roy noted in advocating the elimination of the employer tax break for health insurance. When John McCain proposed it during the campaign, Obama decried it as "the largest middle-class tax increase in history." As I pointed out to him on twitter, if the positions were reversed, I guarantee McCain would have said the same. If Democrats had included that in the PPACA last year, there's no doubt in my mind that Mitch McConnell and John Boehner would have been on TV every single day talking about a $300bn tax increase. Wonky policy is great in abstraction, but the zero-sum nature of our politics makes good policy hard to craft.

Another example is the mortgage interest tax deduction. This acts as a massive subsidy to the middle and upper class for owning a home. Poor people rent and don't get it. It also distorts the housing market away from renting and toward owning. As a result, it's basically impossible to find affordable rental housing for a family in urban areas. (Or affordable rental housing of any kind, see Nickel and Dimed.) Combined with idiotic zoning requirements, places like Manhattan have had to resort to Byzantine systems of rent control. It's a tax break that distorts the market (conservatives should hate it) and benefits the upper class at the expense of the lower class (liberals should hate it). So why does it still exist? Well, houses are popular, but more importantly, whoever proposes ending the tax break will be demagogued as an evil bastard who wants to enact a massive tax increase on the middle class. (Remember that in Washington, $250k is middle class.)

As a result, wonky policies that conservatives and liberals should agree on are destroyed by demagogues and interest group politics. That brings me to the crux of my argument. Wonky, smart conservatives provide well-reasoned critiques to liberal policies. But they're not able to provide alternatives that are politically viable. There's a massive disconect between the incentives, expertise and policy preferences of conservative wonks and the conservative movement. I talked about the effect of this on the health care debate, but it also results in a conflation of pro-business and pro-market policies on the right.

I understand caution, but sausage-making is an ugly process. Unless we get a whole new brand of politician in Washington (not gonna happen), policy solutions are going to be sub-optimal by default. But in my mind, that's not a reason to not try them. I'm not willing to accept a status quo where tens of millions of citizens of the richest country in the world are unable to buy health insurance.