This is just too rich (NY Times piece, if you’re counting):
DOES America need an Arab Spring? That was the question on my mind when I called Frank Fukuyama, the Stanford professor and author of “The End of History and the Last Man.” Fukuyama has been working on a two-volume opus called “The Origins of Political Order,” and I could detect from his recent writings that his research was leading him to ask a very radical question about America’s political order today, namely: has American gone from a democracy to a “vetocracy” — from a system designed to prevent anyone in government from amassing too much power to a system in which no one can aggregate enough power to make any important decisions at all?
The columnist who gets everything wrong, Tom Friedman, consults with the intellectual who got history wrong, Francis Fukuyama (end of history, my a**)—what could go wrong?
As an intellectual offering, this is completely wrong. What does he mean by an American “Arab Spring”? It’s nonsensical. And what antennae does Friedman use to “detect” such a long-winded concept, when he doesn’t even quote Fukuyama directly? If that’s what Friedman thinks, just say so, ya big dope.
Anyway, what’s wrong with the current system? President Obama had unfettered power for two full years, during which time he could have passed any crap legislation he and the servile Congress wanted. In fact, they did: ObamaCare. The people, in their wisdom, put the brakes on that in November 2010 by overwhelmingly electing Republicans, many of them Tea Party Republicans. The GOP took the House, but Democrats still run the Senate and the White House. Obama has even gotten to appoint two Supreme Court justices in two years, as many as George Bush appointed in eight. How has Obama been without “enough power”? There are so many distortions and lies in this first paragraph alone, it’s exhausting.
But as long as we’re here:
“When Americans think about the problem of government, it is always about constraining the government and limiting its scope.” That dates back to our founding political culture. The rule of law, regular democratic rotations in power and human rights protections were all put in place to create obstacles to overbearing, overly centralized government. “But we forget,” Fukuyama added, “that government was also created to act and make decisions.”
But not easily. Even a President designated commander-in-chief of the armed forces has to seek permission of Congress to declare war.
Unless, of course, you’re Obama, and you can carry on in Libya without any checks or balances whatsoever. (Oh, and Israel says “thanks” for those missiles liberated from Qaddafi’s stock that landed in Hamass’ hands and then on Israeli territory.)
Okay, though, I’ll bite: what actions and decisions are we lacking?
For starters, we’ve added more checks and balances to make decision-making even more difficult — such as senatorial holds now being used to block any appointments by the executive branch or the Senate filibuster rule, effectively requiring a 60-vote majority to pass any major piece of legislation, rather than 51 votes.
Has Obama truly been blocked from making any appointments? That sounds like an overstatement. Doesn’t he just name a czar anytime he needs one? Anyway, he’s used recess appointments to go around the system, so he’s hardly suffering from senatorial sclerosis. Dishonest much, Tom?
And the majority party always squawks over the filibuster rule; yet it never gets taken out of the Senate’s rule book. Why do you think that is? Because they secretly want it. Anyway, I recall back in the day, you incorporated ideas from the opposition to get their votes. The Republicans had their own health care plan, and were eager to incorporate their ideas into ObamaCare. Obama’s answer: I won.
In addition, the Internet, the blogosphere and C-Span’s coverage of the workings of the House and Senate have made every lawmaker more transparent — making back-room deals by lawmakers less possible and public posturing the 24/7 norm. And, finally, the huge expansion of the federal government, and the increasing importance of money in politics, have hugely expanded the number of special-interest lobbies and their ability to influence and clog decision-making.
Oh yeah, we’re all watching C-Span 24/7. I’m addicted. But he’s even more unhinged: back-room deals are harder to accomplish (that’s a bad thing?), yet government has expanded? His whole point is that government is sclerotic—can it be both dynamically expanding and clogged up? Of course not.
And sorry if small pissant blogs like this one make Harry Reid’s life harder. I don’t know how I live with myself. That First Amendment’s a real pain in the a**, huh?
But enough of you, Friedman. I thought this was supposed to be about Fukuyama’s thesis:
To put it another way, says Fukuyama, America’s collection of minority special-interest groups is now bigger, more mobilized and richer than ever, while all the mechanisms to enforce the will of the majority are weaker than ever. The effect of this is either legislative paralysis or suboptimal, Rube Goldberg-esque, patched-together-compromises, often made in response to crises with no due diligence. That is our vetocracy.
“If we are to get out of our present paralysis, we need not only strong leadership, but changes in institutional rules,” argues Fukuyama. These would include eliminating senatorial holds and the filibuster for routine legislation and having budgets drawn up by a much smaller supercommittee of legislators — like those that handle military base closings — with “heavy technocratic input from a nonpartisan agency like the Congressional Budget Office,” insulated from interest-group pressures and put before Congress in a single, unamendable, up-or-down vote.
Can you believe this? Less democracy, not more? Less free speech, less openness, less transparency? “Enforce the will of the majority”? And people call conservatives fascists!
I’m used to Friedman being wrong (and Fukuyama), but this wrong? I wonder if he has a brain tumor?
I know what you’re thinking: “That will never happen.”
I hope that will never happen! What Friedman is describing is the system of his beloved Chinese Communist Party. He’s beyond admiration; now he’s lobbying. Thank God he writes for the New York Times, or people might take him seriously.