Maybe Bernie is right

I really liked this Jon Chait post that admitted his preference (and mine) for how to think about that is, admittedly, just a value judgment and that maybe we’re wrong and Bernie is right:

The basic fault line within American economic policy has pitted technocratic liberalism against ideological conservatism. Liberalism is invested in ends— higher incomes for most people, better health, sustainable climate, and so on — which can be measured, and the means to attain it thereby adjusted. Conservatism is invested in the means — smaller government — which it equates with freedom, and which does not require empirical confirmation

Technocracy is inimical to conservatism because it allows for the possibility of remedies conservatives would rule out on philosophical grounds. [emphases mine] Conservative movement economists were united in their rejection of fiscal projections which showed that Bill Clinton’s 1993 combination of tax hikes and spending cuts would reduce the deficit, or that George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts would explode it, and when those very things happened, nobody within the movement rethought their assumptions. Instead they dismiss technocrats as harboring suspicious counter-motives of their own, i.e. scientists claim greenhouse-gas emissions cause rising temperatures because they want to force governments to give scientists more power…

There is no cost within the GOP for dismissing technocratic conclusions on ideological grounds. In the Democratic Party, there is. In 2005, I wrote a little essay about the asymmetry between liberalism and conservatism — the former being inherently technocratic, and the latter inherently anti-technocratic. In it I suggested the true parallel to conservatism is not liberalism but socialism. Like conservatism, but unlike liberalism, socialism has strong moral principles about markets, government, and ownership that override any measurable impacts of a specific policy…

What Sanders’s version of socialism seems to mean instead is a reflexive distrust in markets that is the ideological mirror image of conservative distrust of government. He may not be proposing to shut down Apple (any more than Ted Cruz wants to eliminate Medicare). But Sanders does not feel compelled to constrain his policies with ordinary cost-benefit calculations. If reality intrudes upon his ideological ambitions, then reality, rather than the ambitions, must give way…

I am personally sympathetic to technocratic government. But it is important to concede that technocracy is not inherently correct; it is a value judgment. It’s perfectly valid for tax-cutting conservatives to care more about slashing government than about how this will bear upon government revenue or access to health insurance; it’s likewise valid for Sanders to care more about eliminating the role of private insurance than how this will fit into his budgetary plans. Sanders’s evident disdain for technocracy is not a campaign failure. Just the opposite: liberating the Democratic Party from the constraints of technocracy may be a primary goal of his political revolution.

I think that fairly well captures what’s going on.  And maybe it really is better for the future of the Democratic party to eschew a belief in empiricism and technocracy and simply become more like Republicans.  I hope that’s not so, as I truly fear for the country if both parties fully abandon reality-based politics, but I do think agree there’s a reasonable case to be made for what Bernie is doing.

Photo of the day

Very cool Telegraph gallery of Matty Smith’s underwater photography:

'A Silky Encounter', Two silky sharks in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba

‘A Silky Encounter’, Two silky sharks in Jardines de la Reina, Cuba 

Picture: Matty Smith

America’s gun problem in video/chart form

Great production from Vox.  My favorite set of charts are those showing that we are a huge outlier on homicide, but that at all an outlier on crime.  We’re just so much more damn lethal.  If only there were some explanation.  Good stuff.

How political polarization ruins lives

Okay, dramatic title, but I just listened to a fascinating NPR story on how active duty military can get IVF as a benefit, but as soon as you are a veteran, you cannot.  Obviously, with the many horrendous issues that come with military service, IVF is often the only way for veterans to be able to start a family.  Well, that’s not fair, so Senator Patty Murray has been working to fix this and make IVF accessible to veterans.  Alas:

In the decades since Congress banned IVF for the VA, the procedure has become much more common. And about 1,400 troops came back from Iraq and Afghanistan with severe injuries to their reproductive organs. Thousands more have head injuries, paralysis or other conditions that make IVF their best option.

Bills to change the law come up periodically, only to be blocked at the last minute, says Sen. Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington. “They don’t come out and say that directly, but there continues to be a backroom concern about the practice of IVF,” Murray says. Murray’s bipartisan IVF bill nearly passed last summer.

Republican Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina, who is staunchly against abortion rights, effectively blocked it. [emphasis mine]  Tillis declined requests for comment, but said at the time that he opposed the bill because other problems at the VA need to be fixed first.

Ugh.  And you should read (or listen) to the NPR story that tells the very compelling tale of one veteran’s family.

So, why is the title of this post about polarization?  Because, North Carolina is a moderate state.  We are pretty closely divided between Democrats and Republicans.  Yet, when a Republican wins the election, it is a far-right Republican.  There’s nothing moderate about Thom Tillis.  You get a Republican Senator and you get somebody who would deny IVF to somebody injured fighting for his country because he’s more concerned about embryos.

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