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Winning Ideas in Politics


I have often thought that the best way to run a political campaign and gain popular support is to run against the status quo, rather than in favor of policies to replace it. That’s why politicians run on slogans like “It’s Morning in America” or “Hope and Change” rather than offering real policy alternatives.  More people will agree with the political candidate who opposes current policies than with the candidate who advocates specific remedies.

I was reminded of that when reading David Stockman’s book, The Great Deformation: The Corruption of Capitalism in America. Stockman describes in detail case after case in which the economic and political elite team up to pass legislation for the benefit of the crony insiders, but to the detriment of the nation.  Stockman argues (p. 693) that this cronyism will inevitably lead to a fiscal collapse.

I was right with Stockman as he railed against the rampant cronyism that has been growing in America. That’s the status quo he and I are against. But when I got to his recommendations, which include public funding of election campaigns and a 30% wealth tax to pay down the national debt, I found myself in disagreement. We oppose the same things; we just don’t agree on what should replace them or how they should be replaced.

The book is a worthwhile read. We need more books like Stockman’s, and like Peter Schweizer’s Extortion, to shed light on the state of contemporary American politics.  Political competition isn't Republicans against Democrats; it is the political elite against the rest of us.  These books show us that the political elite is winning.

Randall G. Holcombe is Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University, past President of the Public Choice Society, and past President of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. He received his Ph.D. in economics from Virginia Tech, and has taught at Texas A&M University and Auburn University. Dr. Holcombe is also Senior Fellow at the James Madison Institute and was a member of the Florida Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.
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