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Call Me A Goo-Goo

Thursday, November 17, 2005
"Goo-goo" is a denigrating description of good government reformers. But why are we even in politics if we don't believe in good government? I don't think those of us concerned with re-districting, campaign finance, and lobbying reform are too abstract to care about things like health care and the environment. On the contrary, I don't think we'll ever be able to implement or sustain liberal reforms unless we change the way that politics works. It's not just that American politics has produced poor policy outcomes - it's that the entire structure of American politics is designed to produce poor policy outcomes.

Having said this, there are good and bad ways to pursue good-government reforms. Perhaps Jim McNeil is correct that the Ohio initiatives were too complicated, and too distant from basic voter concerns, to succeed. But part of the problem is that initiatives are just a bad way to do policy. Good laws are going to be a little complicated, and hence confusing to the poor people standing in the ballot box - which is why I don't like the initiative process.

But it would be a mistake to entirely abandon Goo-Goo reforms. If they are presented as part of a package of reforms, they can both highlight the corruption of the Republicans and imply that there is a connection between good policy and good government (i.e. that the reason we don't have good laws is that we have a bunch of crooks in charge gaming the system). But secondly, I don't believe that we are going to be able to enact good policy without such reforms. Right now bloggers are tipsy at Nancy Pelosi's kiss-off to corporate lobbyists. But do we really believe that they won't be able to regain their influence over the Democratic party were we to regain control?

As long as there is such an imperative to raise money, lobbyists will be able to distort the policy-making process. We may never be able to entirely end the relationship between money and politics, but if we don't try we'll never be able to accomplish anything of substance.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 7:35 AM
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