Thursday, September 29, 2011

Too Much of a Good Thing.

"THE PROBLEM WITH such commissions is that, like automatic stabilizers and backstop rules, they reduce the power of elected officials and therefore make our government somewhat less accountable to voters. Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution at Stanford puts it this way: “There is something undemocratic about entrusting the formation of big policy decisions to expert commissions.” And yet he also goes on to note that “the process is not less democratic than having nine unelected justices with lifetime tenure and no political accountability to anyone but themselves decide such basic questions as when a woman can have an abortion and where a child can go to school.” He concludes that, despite the risks, rising polarization justifies the increased use of these types of commissions.

As the debt-limit experience vividly illustrated, by polarizing ourselves, we are making our country more ungovernable—and no one has come up with a practical proposal to deal with the consequences. I wish it were not necessary to devise processes to circumvent legislative gridlock, but polarization isn’t going away. John Adams may have been exaggerating when he pessimistically noted that democracies tend to commit suicide, yet, as we are seeing, certain aspects of representative government can end up posing serious problems. And so, we might be a healthier democracy if we were a slightly less democratic one."
Comment: Mr Orszag's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink "remedies" aside, the sentiment buried in here is fascinating. Are we beginning to see modern Progressive thinking officially break with its founding tenants and demand a de facto mulligan to our experiments into "democracy" circa 1913? And if so, why can't the 17th Amendment's repeal be a serious subject for discussion in this sea-change?

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