In my last post, I lamented the way Congress made the President's idea for cap-and-trade worse, with the Republicans in Congress being even more on the wrong side of the issue than their Democratic counterparts. Brad DeLong tried to coax me out of my despair. A blogger named Fester correctly pointed out that I am bitching, moaning, and whining about the fact that we have politicians responding to incentives instead of wise philosopher-kings. July 4th seemed like the right occasion to follow up.
To begin, why not bitch about this? Bitching about bad government has a long and productive history, at least when it helps motivate the citizenry to act. It didn't start with the document that we honor today, but it surely picked up speed with these words:
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
I don't pretend that an imperfect bill on cap-and-trade is in the same ballpark as the list of grievances enumerated in the Declaration. But this is far from the only example. Congress has been AWOL on the most important issues for over two decades. How disappointing it is, 233 years later, that the objective of the revolution set in motion by this document -- a national legislature of, by, and for the people -- has become so dysfunctional that it outsources most of its work to the other two branches of government and whores itself out to the highest bidder on what it does manage to do. Some day, perhaps, we will arrange our systems of government to produce better results. More philosophy and less venality on Capitol Hill would be a good start.