The Outstater: Let’s Hear It for Obstinacy

July 20, 2017

“Bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out. ” – George Carlin 

IT IS PREDICTABLE that when political division is great, as it is this week in the U.S. Senate on the issue of healthcare, the calls for compromise are strong. And this is the time, also and incongruously, when the vilifying and name-calling are loudest.

Locally the division more often is prompted by tax-funded economic development or grandiose quality-of-place projects. “We need to sit down and iron this out,” the Chamber types tell us. If we don’t, we are nay-sayers, recalcitrants; we are blocking progress, we are anathema.

It is understandable, then, to keep your thoughts to yourself. But you are assuming that all sides mean well, that they hold sincere differences of opinions, mere wrinkles in the fabric of our public discourse.

That is a lazy assumption. It ignores that political careerists have turned democratic representation into an abstract. I have seen vector analysis of the relationship between special-interest political donations and municipal contracts in a typical Indiana mayoral campaign. It leaves you wondering if there is an honest personal conviction left in the process.

Clearly, we no longer send people to Indianapolis or Washington as friends and neighbors whose values and judgement we share and trust. Rather, we send them as lawyers to cut us a deal, to manage a fix, to expand our influence and advance their careers.

But imagine you have a valid insurance claim. Would you be happy if your attorney, working on a flat fee, negotiated an out-of-court settlement for half of what a judge or jury would have awarded? You might feel compromised, but not in a good way. In politics, it happens every day.

That is what many office-holders mean when they say they are “fighting” for us. What it really means is that they have figured out a way to convert public policy into personal power. Moral conviction, the rule of law and the truth? Mere details. Multi-tiered votes allow an office-holder to claim the full range of positions on any given issue. This isn’t  policy discussion, it’s game theory.

The offer to compromise, please know, is specious. Many times in the last decade politicians have advised us that for progress’s sake we had better accept policies that are either untestable or downright suspicious. What they would have us “iron out” is the differences that independent economists have with their self-serving approach, specifically the idea that growth can only be achieved through an institutional authority — them.

Do they truly believe that? Some do, the ones who have never read Adam Smith. For a good number of the rest, though, it is posture and mimic; they have something to gain — and the community be damned, beginning with its middle class.

We have fought this fight before. It is worth fighting again. For after taxes and regulations, all we have left is an assurance that our exceptionalism is due to an emphasis on the primacy of the individual.

It makes no sense to compromise that away for fear someone might call us a name.

— Craig Ladwig


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