Saturday, October 5, 2013


All of the news about the current government shutdown has produced a lot of "lively debate," and by "lively debate" I generally mean a bunch of image macros with midleading text pasted all over everyone's Facebook feed. As such, I've more or less been trying to avoid it.

However, there's always been something that bothers me every time the government gets jacked up, which is basically how people claim that politics today is so divisive and partisan and that is why we are having so many problems. I know I'm practically alone in this, but I don't find high-level arguments amongst our politicians to be so bad.

I mean, why wouldn't politicians argue? That's their job. If every issue was an issue that everyone agreed on, then we wouldn't need to have a government at all. When you hear politicians argue with one another, that's a good thing--that means that they are doing their job. If everyone is agreeing on everything, that either means there aren't any major problems to discuss (unlikely) or they are deliberately avoiding hard decisions (more likely).

There is also a more practical reason why things seem much worse: perception. During any sort of negotiation, both sides keep their information secret. That makes sense; that's how negotiations work. Both sides have a list of what they are willing to compromise on and what they are going to demand, and you can't reveal that list because that would make the "negotiation" moot. And yet, as public servants, they have to pronounce things to the public every so often. So what you get is a lot of non-specific blather that just serves to infuriate people. But just because it's public finance doesn't mean it's exempt from the standard rules of negotiation. The advent of social media doesn't help; not even ten years ago the publicly-made negotiation statements were tight and controlled, and now everyone can say anything in 140 characters or less.

(For the record, I'm not supportive of the current situation. Sure, I agree with some of the details for the Republicans and I understand why they did it, but my overall fear is that the GOP has a "shutdown fetish," as if that is a solution in and of itself instead of a negotiation tactic. I don't necessarily mind if a shutdown happens occasionally as a PR stunt or a short-term tactic; while there is a lot of bluster and nervousness and stress amongst government workers and citizens, in the end it never really amounts to much, so the mere fact that it happens doesn't bother me too much. And I recognize that there may be a long-term stratagem here, and it may eventually pay off. But there are a few too many Republicans out there who gleefully keep a countdown calendar on their desk as to when they can next shut down the government. While my little libertarian heart goes all a-flutter, I realize that there are better ways of accomplishing their goals.)

The Pledge: Can politicians be petty and argue about stupid things and call people names like they are in fifth grade? Of course they can, and they should be called out on it. But don't think for a second that politicians from either party aren't unaware of the effects on the population that their actions take. When you hear politicians argue for one side or the other, they aren't being "partisan," necessarily, they are doing their job.

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