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June 20, 2011

The Demopublican Duopoly is Due for a Fall

"Americans have watched, with a growing sense of alarm and alienation, as first a Republican administration and then its Democratic successor have flouted public opinion by bailing out banks, nationalizing the auto industry, expanding war in Central Asia, throwing yet more good money after bad to keep housing prices artificially high, and prosecuting a drug war that no one outside the federal government pretends is comprehensible, let alone winnable. It is easy to look upon this well-worn rut of political affairs and despair." - Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch in The Wall Street Journal.

Unfortunately this brilliant article is behind the WSJ paywall. Fortunately it is just an excerpt from a book by the two, The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong with America, which will be released on June 28.

It's interesting that, in a time which many people say is characterized by excessive partisanship, Republican and Democratic administrations have delivered almost identical policies. When each party is out of power, it criticizes the excesses of the other; in power each party raises the ante on many of these same policies. Who would've thought that the Democrats would have continued the Republican bank bailout, even elevated Timothy "TARP" Geithner to Treasury Secretary and reappointed "Bailout" Ben Bernanke. Republican presidential candidates now seem to be echoing the "bring home the troops" trope of former candidate Obama, who did nothing of the kind once he became President. The last great expansion of Medicare benefits came on George Bush's watch. Neither party questions the endless, fruitless, and corrupting war on drugs.

The authors, who clearly yearn for a libertarian alternative, point out that duopolies appear stable but actually aren't. Their examples are from economics and game theory. They cite Kodak and Fujifilm, once considered so permanent in their film duopoly, which was able to maintain high prices and restrict consumer choice, that they were used as a text book example of duopoly power. Then along came digital photography…. Duopolies' resistance to change, even internal change, makes them ripe targets when the right time comes. Is that time now in American politics? Social media is helping to topple even brutal political monopolies. Can the Demopublican (my term, not the authors') duopoly stay in power?

Gillespie and Welch:

"The decentralized and effectively leaderless Tea Party is the most potent example of this permanent non-governing minority. The movement has focused like a laser beam on what all but a few Washington politicians won't dare to touch: actually cutting spending and debt. Whether the group will be able to maintain its emphasis on stanching the nation's flow of red ink while avoiding divisive social issues is an open question. But there's no denying that the Tea Party's biggest impact has come by backing challengers to entrenched Republican candidates…

"Such new configurations do not mean that the Democrats and Republicans will disappear anytime soon. Unlike Kodak and Fujifilm, they have a guaranteed revenue stream, and they get to write their own rules for survival. But the demonstrated ability of disgruntled voters to create whole new ways of doing things has made our political duopolists less secure and complacent."

 

Related posts:

Election Analysis: It Was TARP that Boiled the Tea

We've Been T*RPed

Socialist Senator Sanders Saves Capitalism (not the 3d party I’d choose but still a sign of dissatisfaction with duopoly)

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