January 17, 2013
JUST A MATTER OF WHICH PARTY IS THE MOST THIRD WAY WHEN EACH ELECTION ROLLS AROUND::
New Purpose of Government Is Better Government (Ezra Klein, Jan 16, 2013, Bloomberg)
For all the bitterness in Washington these days, it's easy to miss the broad consensus that undergirds our contentious politics. Republicans swear to protect Medicare and Social Security, and most recognize they can no longer hope to repeal Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Democrats voted to make the George W. Bush tax rates permanent for almost all Americans.This is not a stable peace. The Democrats have mostly won the debate over what the government should do, while the Republicans have mostly won the debate over how much the government should tax. [...]As Slate columnist Matthew Yglesias has written, we are experiencing an epochal change in our politics, which he calls the "end of big government liberalism." The progressive project of building a decent welfare state is giving way to the more technocratic work of financing and managing it. How government is run, more than what exactly it does, seems set to be the main battleground of American politics in coming years. [...]The paper "No Discount: Comparing the Public Option to the Coupon Welfare State," by Roosevelt Institute fellow Mike Konczal, is a useful companion to Teles' tale of kludgeocracy. While Teles surveys a broad trend in governance, Konczal drills deep into a single policy dilemma that we confront repeatedly: Whether to provision public services directly, through government-run programs, or to use government as "a giant coupon machine, whose primary responsibility is passing out coupons to discount and subsidize private education, health-care, old-age pensions and a wide variety of other primary goods."In recent years, the "coupon machine" theory of American governance -- exemplified by vouchers and tax subsidies -- has been ascendant. That's how most of Obamacare works. It's also the foundation of Republican efforts to reform Medicare and education.As Konczal argues, "The advantages associated with vouchers are ones of choice, efficiency, competition, budget control and incentive management."
The First Way has prevailed to the extent that we recognize services are better provided by private sector means--especially as regards the investment of the monies we set aside for retirement, medical care, education, etc.--while the Second Way has prevailed to the extent that it is universally recognized that government has a primary role in making sure those monies are set aside (whether private or public monies).
All that we're debating is the speed and thoroughness with which the two ways are integrated. The exact same debate is, of course, going on in every single nation of the Anglosphere and Scandinavia. Since they have parliamentary systems they can often move faster than we can to enact our own ideas, but we'll catch up. They won't long be more like us than we are.
Posted by Orrin Judd at January 17, 2013 8:15 AM
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