UK Austerity Budget Highlights Nonideological Case For Filibuster Reform

I think the Cameron-Clegg austerity budgeting in the United Kingdom is excessive and very unlikely to work as macroeconomic stabilization policy. And I think it’s clear that at least one reason they’re going so far all-in in this direction is simply that the UK Tory Party is a right-of-center party that has an ideological aversion to government spending.

But I do hope that American conservatives will look at the UK and recognize that even though they may have enjoyed the filibuster in 2009-2010, the extremely cumbersome nature of the American political process will make it forever impossible to enact these kind of sweeping cuts in the United States.

From where I sit, the system they have in the UK where you can simply sweep opposition objections aside is actually the right way to do bipartisanship. Call it bipartisanship by alternation. When Labour wins the election, Labour has the chance to implement a bold agenda creating and expanding programs in a way that they think will make Britain a better place to live. Then when the Tories come in, they’re able to be brutal in their efforts to pare back or eliminate things that they think aren’t working. Over the long term, you get a trajectory where programs survive if and only if they’re so widely regarded as successful that no mainstream party would dare abolish them. In the United States, it’s hard to do anything but then once anything’s been put in place it’s almost impossible to scrap or alter it as long as any non-trivial constituency is willing to back it.

The net result, it seems to me, is government that’s “smaller” than what you see in most other democracies but also much more focused on bad or poorly designed programs.