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Ungovernable

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"Ungovernable"

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My observation the other day that the country has become ungovernable has been treated with general scorn by the right-wing blogosphere. Glenn Reynolds, for example, had the simple quip “Funny, that dumb cowboy Bush seemed to get a lot done with fewer votes in Congress.”

Well, okay, but did he get a lot done?

Maybe “ungovernable” was not a good word for this, but I meant to convey the fact that the political system seems incapable of addressing large-scale objective problems. For example, there’s the long-term fiscal deficit. For another example, there’s anthropogenic climate change. For another example, our tax code is a very inefficient means of raising revenue. For a final one, our health care system involves a massive level of waste. These are real problems, not just ideological bugaboos. And I don’t think anything from the Bush administration experience should give us confidence that they’re solvable. Mostly Bush got “a lot done” by dodging those problems. When he did edge toward tackling them—his tax reform commission, for example—he got nowhere.

Perhaps the clearest way of making the point is simply the observation that George W Bush’s administration had a horrible record. Remember how by the time he left office his political party was completely discredited? Remember how conservatives were distancing themselves from the Bush legacy? If that’s what success looks like in modern American government, then we’re really doomed.

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