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Thursday, September 01, 2011

Consent of the Governed

Some people think that the survival of a democracy becomes questionable or should be questioned if it loses the consent of a substantial majority of the governed.
"Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a New is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards? for their future Security."
-- Thomas Jefferson
I rather doubt that at this point westerners of any sort could summon the energy to follow Jefferson's advice and redo government, regardless of whether or not the government has the "Consent of the Governed." As a result, I don't think the survival of our government is in danger. However, I do think it's harder for a country to thrive without the "Consent of the governed" (depending a bit on the exact definition of "consent").

A recent Gallup poll finds that 84% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing and I think that approval is a plausible proxy for "consent", or at least close enough that it's worrisome.

The problem is that roughly half of those disapproving think that the government isn't anywhere big enough (i.e. "doing" enough) and that the other half think the government is Way. Too. Big. There is such a wide chasm between the two sides that, as a result, I don't think America will ever again have the consent of the vast majority of the governed.

I'm confident America will survive, at least for a while, but I question whether or not it will thrive.

Update: Apparently congressional approval was a very good proxy for consent of the governed.


Hey Skipper said...

IMHO, there is near consensus that the gap between gov't spending and revenue cannot continue.

Outside class-warfare communitarians -- am I repeating myself? -- which make up perhaps 10% of the electorate, virtually no one wants to see taxes increase.

There are other reasons to be optimistic: China's currency will have to revalue upwards, Islamism is probably having its last gasps, and the Euro is proving its fundamental weaknesses.

Bret said...

I think you're wildly underestimating the percent of people who want to see taxes (on others) increase. From Warren Buffet to virtually every liberal friend I have, I'd be amazed if it's only 10%.

If it wasn't for the Euro (and the Yen) being in even worse shape, we'd be done as the major economic power right now.

Bret said...

I wonder if Harry will weigh in on whether or not to raise taxes on the rich?

Hey Skipper said...

I might be underestimating, but every Warren Buffet and liberal amounts to roughly 15% of the electorate.

And call me pollyannish, but I think the remaining 85% of the electorate gets basic math.

As for the Euro and Yen, their exchange rates have significantly appreciated against the dollar over the last five years. The RMB has to a lesser extent, but will continue to do so.

I don't think that is a bad thing, or any sign of US economic weakness. Rather, it is a consequence of those areas economic policies being quasi-mercantilistic.

The US is (relatively lightly) taxed, has less of a debt problem than Europe or Japan, and has none of the serious issues China faces.