But I also know that it is never sufficient just to state a broad principle and call it a day, not if your goal is to understand particular events at a place and time. You can't calculate the path of a tennis ball tossed on the moon just by citing Newton's 2nd Law. You have to grind through the details.
What am I talking about here, with all this abstract verbiage? In this case, why the GOP is such a lousy organization, why its members so often disappoint.
Steve Lonegan explains in detail, using the example of the GOP establishment in New Jersey. Circling back to principles, though, the discussion could be usefully applied just about anywhere in the country, and especially to the Federal Government.
To understand how we got here, we need to look at who controls the levers of power within the GOP establishment in New Jersey. For the most part, it's not the elected officials. In New Jersey, most elected officials are part-timers. You must look behind the Republican "leader" - to the permanent bureaucracy who runs our legislative caucuses.Now for the what to do about it part.
The players in this bureaucracy slide through a revolving door that takes them from legislative staffer, to lobbyist, to holder of government contracts or appointments, and then back in time to secure a fat taxpayer-funded pension. These are the hollow men who are there when a freshmen legislator arrives in Trenton - and remain twenty years after he's gone.
Only our party - the Republican Party - can bring change to Trenton. The Democrats cannot bring the fiscal responsibility New Jersey needs. They are captive of their own base vote - of public employee unions and those dependent on government. They dare not risk their contract with these constituencies.
Republicans have a base vote who wants fiscal change. It is the hollow men who reject it, and they do so for the simple reason that it is in their financial interests to maintain the status quo. At the back of every seemingly inexplicable betrayal by a GOP "leader" sits a close personal advisor with his own personal reasons. And in a state GOP without principles - that fails to adopt its own party platform - this kind of venal corruption is rampant. [emphasis added]
It's not enough to replace the corrupt men with good ones. That would help, but it's like replacing a deceased Pope. One goes, you get another one pretty much like him. No, you have to change the system, and that's a very hard thing to do.
Specifically what about the system? That's much too broad a question to answer here, but we can make a start.
Individuals respond to incentives. Those that don't have their moral principles too firmly stuck to them, which is just about anyone interested in working in politics in the first place, will find it hard to resist certain 'selfish' advantages. The usual suspects are easy to name here: ill-gotten gains, power, the feeling of being in the crowd that controls, the near-insane 'value' of "wanting to make a difference" by coercing others, and so forth. Nothing out of the ordinary where politics is concerned.
So, the key is to change the incentives. Remove the power of politicians to offer the various 'bribes' that are attractive to those behind the scenes (and the bribes to the general public they use and manipulate to retain the power they devolve to those shadow figures) and you'll have solved the problem.
How to do that is, of course, a whole 'nother discussion. Here again, we can only make the barest of beginnings.
Make all earmarks illegal. Get the Feds out of the construction business, and the health care business, and the environmental protection business, and the education business, etc. etc. Don't, for example, let the politicians act as if it's appropriate for them to decide which form of energy is "best for the country." Ditto health care, and all the rest.
Stop approaching the Federal Government as if it was a hotel owner and the citizens mere guests being offered various spa services for which they are required to pay. (Never mind about all the services some are required to subsidize for others...) In short, roll back the Leviathan to those responsibilities listed in the Constitution (and fix the Commerce Clause by amendment).
A tall order, to be sure. It will require a revolution, whether only intellectual or physical also it's too early to tell. If the former can be pushed hard enough the next 20 years the latter won't be necessary in 40. But, as Adams wrote to Jefferson:
What do we mean by the Revolution? The war? That was no part of the revolution; it was only an effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and this was effected from 1760 - 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington. * Letter to Thomas Jefferson (1815-08-24)Long live the Second Revolution.
[Hat Tip: the superb Veronique de Rugy at NRO.]