Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Policy Quagmire

Ezra Klein explains the problem in a great Newsweek story:

"And here is the system's problem: the minority wins when the majority fails, and the minority has the power to make the majority fail. Since the rules work no matter which party is in the minority, it means no one can ever govern."

And the cause:

"Congress used to function despite its extraordinary minority protections because the two parties were ideologically diverse. Democrats used to provide a home to the Southern conservatives known as the Dixiecrats. The GOP used to include a bloc of liberals from the Northeast. With the parties internally divided and different blocs arising in shifting coalitions, it wasn't possible for one party to pursue a strategy of perpetual obstruction. But the parties have become ideologically coherent, leaving little room for cooperation and creating new incentives for minority obstruction."

And a potential solution:

"So how to change Congress? Well, carefully. Reform may be impossible in the day-to-day context, as the minority cannot unilaterally disarm itself. But the day-to-day context isn't the only possible context. 'You have to do the John Rawls thing,' says John Sides, a political scientist at George Washington University. 'Go behind the veil of ignorance. Figure out the system we'd want without knowing who will be in charge or what they will be doing.' "

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