Jim Baron Says Take Down the Big Tents

Offering a decidedly contrarian viewpoint (relative to the usual MSM perspective), Pawtucket Times columnist Jim Baron comes out against political parties that are big tents…

The Republican and Democratic parties long ago stopped standing for any particular ideology or principle. Both have determined to become “Big Tents” attracting any voters they can. They have become about nothing more than their side winning the election and seizing the power and getting the fundraising advantage. If it is going to be one side or the other in charge, each wants it to be them. Philosophies be damned; the parties want to get their hands on the levers of power and keep them there. Nothing else is important….
So all of politics, and by extension, government, is the gang of R’s fighting over power, turf and perks with the gang of D’s, and everyone else – more than half of all Americans; more than half of all Rhode Islanders – matter not at all.
And you wonder why apathy about government and politics is so rampant that most people don’t bother to vote, that most sane and grounded people can’t be convinced to run for office to try to change things.
In his column, he also comes out against straight-ticket voting, choosing candidates through primaries, and maybe even political parties in general.
I’d like to submit for consideration one other contrarian observation (relative to the usual MSM perspective) to those sympathetic to Mr. Baron’s viewpoint. A large part of the mechanistic vulgarization of politics that Mr. Baron describes is a natural outgrowth of government becoming big, intrusive and expensive. Once government takes control of a huge chunk of resources, either directly through taxation or indirectly through regulation, human nature dictates that rival gangs, focused on grabbing those resources for themselves, will form.
Reduce the amount of power controlled by the government monopoly, and you’ll reduce the number of hands grasping at the levers of government for power’s sake alone.

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Tom Wigand
Tom Wigand
14 years ago

>>A large part of the mechanistic vulgarization of politics that Mr. Baron describes is a natural outgrowth of government becoming big, intrusive and expensive. Once government takes control of a huge chunk of resources, either directly through taxation or indirectly through regulation, human nature dictates that rival gangs, focused on grabbing those resources for themselves, will form.
I believe that economists (such as the late, great Milton Friedman) refer to this dynamic as “rent seeking.”
And boy, there sure are plenty of seekers in this State!

klaus
klaus
14 years ago

That’s a really bold statement that Tom W quoted above.
Would you, um, you know, have any proof that this statement is true? Gosh, I know that it’s a silly thing to ask you to prove these reckless assertions, but call me a stickler that way.
Oh, and btw: America had, like, 150 years of low taxes and small gov’t. Would someone kindly explain why these conditions didn’t lead to Utopia for everyone in the 1800s? I mean, we tried it your way. It didn’t work. Why do we want to go back to the days of child labor, no FDA, and a daily wage measured in pennies?
After all, those were the conditions the last time we had low taxes and small gov’t.
Oh, and calling me a socialist (or liberal, or whatever) is not the same thing as proof. It merely demonstrates your inability to make a real case based on silly things like facts.

tcc3
tcc3
14 years ago

klaus,
Big Gov. and socialism doesn’t work. We had an approx. 70 year experiment to create your Utopia, known as the Soviet Union…failed. Europe’s attempts at a lighter version is only leading to stagnation and an inevitable decline. Another wonderful example is China which is only growing and exceeding b/c the are introducing capitalism and free market economy reforms. Big Gov. control only leads to oligarchies.
No responsible intelligent person is going to argue that some government regulation and control is not required.
“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
Thomas Paine
Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.
P. J. O’Rourke

johnb
johnb
14 years ago

klaus,
i think you’re missing the point. the rival gangs that CAM is alluding to are political parties. and the fact that there is a perpetually growing government is something that you don’t need to look very far to verify, and really shouldn’t be in dispute. nor should the assertion that our two dominant political parties are naturally inclined to lust after control of that increasingly lucrative and powerful government.
you may want bigger government and more regulation, but you should also be prepared for what that will create: bigger, more powerful political parties that are more interested in control over the checkbook than the personal pursuit of the individual

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
14 years ago

People who propose more government involvement in the economic affairs of the people typically spend their time talking about all the alleged benefits of a more intrusive government and ignore the important incentives that are created by that more intrusive government.
See The Unspoken, But Very Real, Incentives That Drive Governmental Actions for more.
There is an alternative view and it is articulated in “Who You Gonna Call?” The Little Platoons.

Donald B. Hawthorne
Donald B. Hawthorne
14 years ago

The first post linked in my comment above has one comment, which reminds us of these important points:
1. Liberty is paramount and is least threatened when economic and political power is widely dispersed. This argues for limited government and maximizing entrpreneurial capitalism.
2. People act in their own self-interest, whether in the private sector or public sector.
3. Underlying incentives define what is in every person’s self-interest and therefore drive behaviors. We often forget that those incentives frequently do not align with publicly-stated goals or assumed altruism, especially in the public sector.
4. The private sector creates jobs and wealth – making it a positive sum game – while governmental intervention in the economy is a zero-sum game because government only has the option of coercively taking from Peter to pay Paul.
5. The proper role for government is to define the rules so there is a level playing field and then play umpire, to ensure the rules are fairly implemented.
6. Perceived problems in the marketplace are frequently a result of unacknowledged bad incentives created by prior government actions.
7. One of the consequences of large government is that powerful private sector companies have an added incentive – and ability – to buy government favors, to the detriment of liberty for all others and especially the less powerful.

klaus
klaus
14 years ago

Guys, I asked two simple questions: 1) Is there any support for the contention that big gov’t is responsible for the vulgarization of politics? 2) For the large part of American history, the gov’t was small and business was largely unregulated. And yet, somehow, Utopia did not appear. Instead, we had a banana republic economy with a very small ruling class that owned virtually all wealth and held virtually all power. That being the case, why should we re-introduce those circumstances? If so either produce evidence, or address the second question, can you please do so? As I said, calling me a socialist, and trotting out a lot of speculative propaganda about big gov’t does not address the question. tcc3 introduced the straw man USSR issue, which is simly avoiding and evading my questions. JohnB concludes that I want more regulation. I said no such thing. I simply said that non-regulation allowed the use of cocaine in Coca-Cola. Are you that eager to bring back child labor? As for Mr Hawthorne’s two responses, again, with the ideological diatribe. A lot of theory, very little address of fact. Instead of the canned boilerplate, can you address question #2? Can you? Please? You like to pontificate about how things are supposed to work under these lovely theories. I’m interested in how things did work when we didn’t have the regulations in place that we do today. Hey–let’s bring back the jewelry industry in RI. We can promote it by letting them dump all sorts of mercury and lead and heavy metals right into the Bay, just like they did in the good old days. Who cares if the Upper Bay is permanently closed to shell-fishing because of all the heavy-metal contamination from the first time around. Can you actually attempt to address… Read more »

johnb
johnb
14 years ago

klaus, to begin, tomW didn’t make any wild assertions. he was quoting from the original post which was drawing from jim baron’s analysis of today’s political parties baron writes: “Philosophies be damned; the parties want to get their hands on the levers of power and keep them there. Nothing else is important….” CAM’s original point is that as government expands (and i again would challenge YOU to dispute that government continues to grow by the day) so too does the incentive for political parties to abandon ideology for the sake of keeping “their hands on the levers of power” where in any of that do you see anyone suggesting that we revert to an unregulated agrarian or preindustrial economy? is it because TomW cited milton friedman? really, who/what are you arguing against. but just for kicks, let’s see if i can answer your *ahem* baffling questions #2: no one has argued for an unregulated economy. nowhere has anyone argued for a reversion back to the 1800s or to the days of upton sinclair. in fact, i am not alone on this blog or in conservative circles in my regard for teddy “the trust buster” roosevelt: the father of government oversight and one of the founding fathers of the modern republican party. so while you may think when a conservative says “we need less government” it’s code for “let’s put the ‘coke’ back in Coke” i can assure you, that’s not the case at all. since that was so simple, let’s tackle #1…Yes. There is support for the contention that big government leads to a perversion of politics. where? i would begin with the federalist papers which cautioned against the inherent nature of political parties as being power-seeking and innately corrupting to the system. then i would refer you to baron’s… Read more »

Tom W
Tom W
14 years ago

>>but then again, i could be wrong. CAM, TomW, tcc3, do any of you favor “putting the ‘coke’ back in Coke”?
Sure.
But only with a U.S. Surgeon General Warning Label.
And excise taxes on it that are multiples of the product cost.
And a “settlement” from the Coca-Cola corporation that we’ll be told will be used to fund education programs to warn people of the dangers, and cessation programs to help people kick the Coca-Cola habit …
… the proceeds of which can then be diverted by the General Assemble to provide pay and benefits to the unions and further upgrade welfare benefits so that even more Central Americans will choose to locate here and produce anchor babies …
… which will then attend school in Providence and Central Falls …
… which in turn can soak up even more of the “state aid to education” so that the property taxes of those of us who live in the suburbs can skyrocket even higher.
Gee, I guess there IS a real downside to unfettered capitalism.
So on second thought, let’s hold on putting the coke back into the Coke!
😉

SusanD
SusanD
14 years ago

“somewhere you have decided to get into a conversation about economic theory and child labor.
frankly, i don’t think that we’re reading the same blog. i really think that you seemed to have missed the point of this post …”
Correction, johnb. Klaus has hit it. I myself definitely believe we are long overdue reintroducing child labor in the United States.

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