Hurray for Gridlock! (Kind Of)

I love gridlock.  I would love it more if it actually kept Congress from screwing things up.  It doesn’t.  The screw-up mechanism is set to run on auto-pilot and is the one thing in Washington that works.

Our government was designed to make it extremely hard for it to do anything.  That’s right.  The Founders did not want it to function.  They wanted it to behave, and by “behave,” I mean not do much.

In the space of 234 years, our government has managed not only to do a lot–most of it wrong–but do it automatically.  Programs do not die unless actively killed.  Budget “cuts” are actually reductions in the yearly increase of said budget.  Entitlement programs are enacted with no thought of who will pay and how they will get the money.  Congress could quit doing anything at all this afternoon and we would still be marching merrily toward economic Armageddon tomorrow morning.

There is one consolation.  Over the past several decades, the best predictor of spending is not the party in power.  It is whether the government is split.  Opposing parties = less spending.  (For those of you who like to dig deeper, I will resurrect the figures in a future blog.)  That means we may see a slight reduction in screwupidness in the next two years.  Maybe.

Gridlock, in other words, may forestall our imminent demise, but it won’t stop it.  Congress must not only stop doing stuff, it must undo much of the stuff it has already done.  No one is going to be happy about it.  No one is going to like it.  No one is going to give a rousing cheer to politicians who do the right thing.  It will take a full complement of adults with a fearless focus on reality.  Do 535 such people still exist?

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About Terry Noel

I am an Associate Professor of Management and Quantitative Methods at Illinois State University. My specialty is entrepreneurship.
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