The Rule of Nobody; Time to Start Thinking; Independent Voters

Real People, Not Regulations, Are the Key to Accountability

Excerpt from the continuing work of Philip Howard.

“How government became a deviant subculture is a story of good intentions gone awry. We tried to avoid government abuse by replacing individual responsibility with detailed rules and objective legal proceedings. Never again would officials play favorites or indulge personal prejudices. Government would be an efficient assembly line.

What we achieved instead was what philosopher Hannah Arendt called ‘the rule of Nobody.’ Instead of an automated assembly line, government became a bureaucratic jungle, with all the pathologies of a culture without responsibility or accountability: savage politics disconnected from actual accomplishment; hyper-inefficiency; and a universal sense of powerlessness, causing a downward spiral of selfishness and cynicism. ‘Nothing is impossible,’ one public employee observed, ‘until it is sent to a committee.’” – Philip K. Howard

 Time to Start Thinking: America in the Age of Descent by Edward Luce

I just finished listening to it and found it very worthwhile. Perhaps the world’s longest and hardest to-do list.

Here are links to an NYT review by Jonathan Rauch and an excerpt.

“Luce is British, but he has lived and worked in the United States for years (as a columnist for The Financial Times and a speechwriter in the Clinton administration’s Treasury Department). He knows the country well, and he wishes it well, too. A result is that he leavens his yearning for smarter, more nimble government with a realism not always found among Europeans. He recognizes that the accumulation of interest groups guarding the status quo, and the remarkable increase in partisan polarization (especially on the right), are structural changes, difficult, at best, to reverse. No politician wielding cries of “Change!” — whether that politician is named Obama or Gingrich — can make decades’ worth of governmental and political sclerosis go away.”

 Independent Voters Are Key So Who Are They?

Almost as many flavors of independents as Baskin Robbins. Somehow, “deliberator” isn’t very catchy but the symptoms of deliberator-ness definitely fit. Here are some excerpts and a link.

“This November, independents again could play a decisive role. They make up 49 percent of those who are undecided or say they could change their minds.

But many are neither centrist nor moderate. And many don’t really swing back and forth from one party to the next with any regularity. About a third are indistinguishable from Democrats, and three in 10 are indistinguishable from Republicans, at least when it comes to their voting patterns.

That leaves about one in eight who are “deliberators” — quintessential swing voters. Most say they’ve always considered themselves to be independent, and fully half say they’ve voted for Democrats and Republicans about equally in presidential elections.

The classic independents — whom we call “deliberators” — are not uniformly middle-of-the-road in their views on issues. But they share a deep dislike for the way the political system is operating: Fully 91 percent are dissatisfied with the political system, and 75 percent trust neither Democrats nor Republicans when it comes to representing their opinions on the economy.”

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