Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Political Theatre

May 2012 - Failure as Success


"Wanting failure for what end?" @Bricoleur questions the purpose of a recent vote in the US Senate. As far as I understand it, the Republicans submitted a budget that was sufficiently similar to President's budget for the Republicans to reject, but sufficiently different for the Democrats to reject as well.

Failure for whom? According to @michaelbd, the purpose of the Republicans is to achieve a certain headline. Presumably this is not the purpose of the Democrats. But what is the purpose of the system as a whole, and does this kind of political theatre represent a systemic failure of the US political system?


Jan 2013 - Stalemate as Victory


@JohnFriedman (via @Bricoleur) describes the perennial incompetence of the US fiscal system in terms of game theory (Nash Equilibrium), and suggests that all of the players are so invested in preserving their positions that the larger purpose gets lost. He attributes the following version of the POSIWID principle to Greg Pawlson.

"Whenever a system reliably and consistently produces the same results, one must accept that the system was designed to create those outcomes, whether or not those outcomes were the intention of the system's architects."

The so-called Fiscal Cliff is essentially a political crisis with apparently severe financial consequences, rather than a financial crisis as such, and so it is the political system to which POSIWID directs our attention here. Fiscal decisions are made by politicians for political ends: although they may often try to frame these decisions as if they were merely exercises in financial good management, POSIWID warns us that this may be a misleading illusion.

Friedman argues that if the American people consistently reward politicians for their intransigence and unwillingness to compromise, then they have no right to complain when these characteristics prevail over cooperation and common sense.

Amitai Etzion (via @Bricoleur) reframes the US political system, suggesting that the apparent division between Republicans and Democrats masks a deeper division between conservatives and liberals. He concludes

"Pay no mind to the argument that Washington is not working or gridlocked. It works quite well, most times, for conservatives. Those who are out to change Washington -- better start by recognizing the way it works rather than being distracted by the myth that it is gridlocked."


Stephen Dinan, Obama Budget Defeated 99-0 (Washington Times, 16 May 2012)

Michael Brendan Dougherty, What It Means That The 'President's Budget' Went Down 99 To 0 In The Senate (Business Insider, 16 May 2012)

Amitai Etzion, The Conservative 'Party' Dominates (Huffington Post, 11 Jan 2013)

John Friedman, A Lesson in Accountability as U.S. Goes Over Fiscal Cliff (Huffington Post, 1 Jan 2013)

Jason Linkins, Senate Unanimously Rejects A Budget Offered By Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) (Huffington Post, 16 May 2012)

Michael Tomasky, Obama’s Big and Quiet Transformation (New York Review, 7 February 2013)

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