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Fantasies of Bipartisanship

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"Fantasies of Bipartisanship"

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Thomas Friedman has a crazy dream:

Which is why I wake up every morning hoping to read this story: “President Obama announced today that he had invited the country’s 20 leading bankers, 20 leading industrialists, 20 top market economists and the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate to join him and his team at Camp David. ‘We will not come down from the mountain until we have forged a common, transparent strategy for getting us out of this banking crisis,’ the president said, as he boarded his helicopter.”

Brendan Nyhan responds:

From a practical perspective, it’s not clear that a banking policy exists that “20 leading bankers, 20 leading industrialists, 20 top market economists and the Democratic and Republican leaders in the House and Senate” would unanimously prefer to the status quo. More importantly, why would we assume that such a policy is best? There’s no reason (beyond wishful thinking) to imagine that bipartisan compromises are always optimal, particularly on technical issues like banking policy.

Beyond the bipartisanship, in the real world this would be in practice a recipe for rule-by-CEO. A key constraint on the decision-making would need to be that it served the personal financial interests of the 20 “leading bankers” and “leading industrialists” (whatever that might mean) and there’s no reason to think that would serve the public interest. It would be interesting to speculate about what would happen if you held a meeting with all those people and gave them some kind of truth serum that made them speak honestly and bargain in good faith, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, the way the system works is that Obama and has team will need to craft a response and will need to take responsibility for its success or failure.

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