Incrementalism

I can think of no better day to start a blog than today, when we find out that Baton Rouge’s bond issue was defeated — 65000 to 25000. That’s a rout. That’s a clue to politicians that something is wrong with what they are doing. Something is wrong in the way they are doing things. It’s the second time that it went down. The first by a thinner margin than the second. And what does the mayor say? He refuses to talk to the press — our supposed guardians of liberty — and says only that he’s thinking of trying it again next year. So obviously, three strikes he’s out? Hopefully he won’t he try it a third time.

Why is there such a rout? Could it be because people think they are already paying enough in taxes? Could it be that the people think the real costs are not what the proposals said they were? Could it be because there were too many different things in an all or nothing radical change of some sort? Could it be that in five years of office the mayor hasn’t done what he said he would, or was wrong on his numbers? Or are people finally waking up to the idea that the proposals of politicians, the business community, the press and all those who claim to be running our city are really picking our pockets? Is it all of the above? I’ll let you decide. Because the Democrat-Republican divide is not what I care about. Nor do I care if someone says they are independent, or a socialist or a conservative or libertarian or a liberal. The name you call yourself is completely irrelevant to what you propose to do about the problems that not a one of us thinks doesn’t exist. Me? I’m practical, incremental, reasonable — and most importantly logical and numerical. No problem has ever been solved without these ingredients. And if all you can come up with is “I hope the Democrats fix it” or “I know the Republicans can fix it,” then you are missing the opportunity to fix a problem.

What I propose to do in this blog is look at the front page and editorials of our local paper, The Baton Rouge advocate, and write what I think about what is published. The old joke is “who’s monitoring the monitors?” Well, it’s time to start monitoring the press, who claims they are monitoring the politicians. Or at least looking at what the press didn’t cover. But one thing it won’t be is a bunch of political gossip. It’s not going to be for Republicans or against them. Likewise with Democrats and Independents, for I don’t care what they call themselves and I don’t care who is jockeying for this or that office. Because that’s the problem — we are distracted from what is being done when we dwell on all the personalities. And oddly, we talk as if this or that politician will “make a difference.” And then, at the end of their term there is nothing much done except more taxes and more laws. What people are sensing, I believe, is that we are losing something with all these taxes and laws. More taxes means less money for what we want in our personal lives. And more laws means somehow there are more people who can slip into being a criminal without even knowing about it. Everyone agrees it’s too complex. Most politicians seem to want to make it more complex. And big business and the press are in league with the politicians. That’s why we mock them all. That’s why we don’t really trust them. Who’s we? We are everyone, but obviously a politicians friends and families like him. Yep. They are all liked so much by each other that they help each other out.

But we are at least blessed with a system that is hard to change. Every thing is in small increments, and the public does not like big changes. Incrementalism is what we have in this country. But if the incrementalism is all about installing a dictatorship of sorts, what’s the point? I never see incrementalism about how to dismantle the mess we have. And that’s what we should be looking at, not figuring out how to work the system we have. It is not working, and there is no one in the city or the country who can deny it.

A slow and deliberate course of action is always preferred to a big jump from one system to another.  Yet our entire way of talking about instituting new programs or change old ones is to make a sudden leap — with everything changing at once.  It causes confusion, doesn’t allow for corrections and leads to dissension between the public and the government.

The brilliance of the American system of government at all levels is that all change is slow and incremental, with plenty of advance notice.  The system is ponderous with examination of ideas.  It is lengthy in gathering comments and discussion.  Major legislation is often years in the process. The people are comfortable with this sloth.  That’s why they keep voting in the same sorts of politicians.  But what we get is just enough crack pots to muck the system up even more.  So that in many respects the government doesn’t have much authority and is mocked, while the government criminalizes the population.  Indeed, among the lessening numbers of voters are plenty of people who are completely resigned to the way things are going in the country and they can’t see much of a difference in who is elected.  So why bother to vote if you’re forced to accept the same outcome?

It’s actually a healthy sign, all those people not voting. It shows that people are refusing to join politics as usual and are waiting for someone to come along and light their fire.  On the other hand, of late there is too much hue and cry for radical change.  And even among some fringe elements of the Republican and Democratic parties there is call for radical change.  So what’s wrong with incrementalism?

Nothing. It’s really a good thing when dealing with a complex society.  There are too many variables to consider.  And that’s why it’s better for us to examine every aspect of the current government and laws and see which things are just too complicated and can stand a little simplifying.But to keep adding to it is pointless. Everyone seems to know it — even those urging radical change.

Libertarians and social democrats have all these great goals, but little practical implementation.  I look at all the libertarian websites and they are either about the theory or about the personal histories and campaigns running for office. Social democrats are just going the wrong way completely, calling for more taxes and more laws. Why they do it I can’t be sure. Perhaps they are afraid of life and want a daddy figure to hold their hands until they die. Or perhaps they want the power that more taxes and more laws will bring us. The Democrats and the Republicans think that their brand of incrementally bigger government is the way to go, and that’s why it get’s bigger with no matter which party is in office.

I can’t find the practical plans of we’re going to move this law off the books and were going to implement this change over the next so many months or years.  We’re going to eliminate this department by doing these things …  No, I don’t see any practical solutions to the problems.  Having beliefs is great, adhering to them as much as possible in your personal life is admirable.  But what are you actually doing about the practical realities?  What actions are you taking, and to which groups are you bringing your ideas?

One problem is that when libertarians and social democrats do go to address a group they lapse into philosophy and theory and ignore the practical reality that their listeners are totally oblivious to the theories.  They want to know what it will mean when it comes to their electric bill or their streets paved or their parks cleaned.  They concerns are with the physical reality in which they live.  Not in the theories behind which they ought to gather so that they can move to a higher plane of being.

And when any Republican or Democrat comes to talk to a group they speak in broad platitudes about reform and healing, about helping the community and fighting the special interests. They are going to demand from Washington what we deserve. They are fighting for the little guy and the soccer mom. They are creating jobs and bringing economic development. They are on top of things and working to cut red tape for some old lady down the block. Then they go pass more taxes and more laws. As if that would help anyone. You say it does? So why do we have the same problems forever? If your plans are working should the problems have been resolved? If not, why not?

So let’s go propose some practical solutions to real problems and see what that gets us.  We must accept that we can’t implement our program whole sale.  One of the best things we can do though is work with those least in power and economic riches and work to bring them more liberty which can only help them.  And that would also win over all those who don’t want to pay for “welfare” as they like to call it.

One thing is true, from the other story of the day — Not one of Baton Rouge’s share of the state’s 744,218 people below the poverty level were going to be helped by a 1/2 cent increase in their sales tax that the bond issue was going to impose. Nor will any of those people be helped by being moved from a state program to a federal program as the article says is happening. Moving people from one program to another does not solve a problem, it transfers it. So what is the point of that? And how to help those people, and everyone else for that matter, is the subject of my other blog — Incorrigibly Contumacious.

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