Friday, July 3, 2015

Governing for the public interest

The usually conservative-biased, reality-challenged Wall Street Journal editorial page occasionally publishes an opinion piece that makes more sense than not. That tends to happen when the author sets rigid conservative ideology aside at least somewhat and looks at reality mostly for what it is and then applies relatively unbiased logic. It can also happen when reality and ideology mostly overlap or align.

Unfortunately, reality usually does not align with either liberal or conservative ideology and thus ideologues typically unconsciously distort reality and logic. To fix the disconnect 'problem', ideologues typically distort reality to better fit the ideology. There is nothing new or unusual about that. It is just human nature or how cognition works, or fails to work, in the human species. Sometimes when ideology does aligns with reality, the result is clarity and sound logic.

Clarity - When ideology and reality aligned
A July 2, 2015 opinion by Allysia Finley, a WSJ editorial writer, approvingly described an effort in California to foster the presence and power of moderate democrats in the state legislature. The basis of Ms. Finley's approval is a coalition, Govern for California, that is focused on, among other things, counterbalancing California's overly powerful public employee labor unions. In this case, Ms. Finley sees reality fairly accurately because her rigid anti-union conservative ideology aligns well with reality for this issue in California.

Acknowledging governance has social impact
What is surprising about Ms. Finley's opinion is her concluding remarks: “The California legislature controls nearly $120 billion in state tax revenues, the education of nine million students, and health care for 12 million low-income citizens. It’s hard to find an investment or charity with as much of a social impact.”

An approving reference to the social impactof governing is very rare for a conservative. Of course, this is in the context of a state government and an anti-union effort. Conservatives tend to accept state governments more than the federal government. The typical conservative attitude is anti-government even at the state level. The faith (ideology) is that government in general is bad and/or necessarily wasteful compared to what the private sector usually delivers. That faith blinds anti-government ideologues to the reality that government, even at the federal level, is necessary, but not sufficient, for a healthy economy, an increasing standard of living and a secure homeland. What is also necessary is acknowledgment of the role governments at all levels need to play to afford the best service to the public interest.[1]

An argument for smarter, right-size government & governance
This is not an argument that government, taxes or regulations need to generally increase at the state or federal levels. Every situation needs to be assessed on its own merits. A key point of Dissident Politics is an argument for non-ideological,[1] rational politics based on a better alignment between reality and perceptions of reality, e.g., via a reduced use of spin in politics. Ideology (and self-interest) is a major factor in the massive disconnects between unspun reality and perceived reality. Ideology often badly distorts both reality and logic.

Politics based on distortion cannot logically be the most economically efficient or the most effective at serving the public interest. If there is a flaw in that logic, what is it?

1. In this context, non-ideological politics means not conservative, not liberal and not centrist. It means pragmatic politics focused on service to the public interest (as defined before) in part by shrewdly but properly balancing special interest power, e.g., public unions in California, against legitimate public interest needs. Logically speaking, what is pragmatic could be a policy or law that would be considered conservative, liberal, centrist or something else, so long as it appears to best serve the public interest. That is the ideology of non-ideological pragmatism.