Curse of the Incumbent

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The emergence of a more or less fungible world labor market means that Western wages will continue to be pulled down by the 2 billion potential new workers in China and India. The instantaneous movement of capital worldwide puts grinding pressure on Western employers and employees to be ever more productive. The deleveraging of excess debt, both public and private, in the U.S. and the West also is probably going to continue to create economic agony for more than a decade.

Once it becomes understood by Western politicians that incumbency is likely to lead to defeat, not re-election, a positive side effect is likely to be bold, even desperate policy initiatives by incumbents.

President Obama may be the last American president (for the duration of this anti-incumbent epoch I am predicting) who will permit himself to be stuck in a passive condition and assume that the trappings of incumbency will naturally lead to his re-election.

Whether they are socialist or free market politicians, we are likely to see them press hard for more vivid versions of their policy proposals. Kicking the can down the road will be seen as risky — not safe — politics. We are just beginning to see hints of this on the Medicare issue.

We should also expect to see ever-stronger third parties. This is already happening in Europe, which does not have the strong two-party tradition we have in the United States. But it will happen in the U.S. as well — and sooner than we expect.

These third parties are likely to have eclectic policy combinations. For example, the fast emerging True Finn Party in Finland is a mix of cultural (ethnic/religious) conservatism and hostility to the European Union, but pro-social benefits for Finns. The hallmark of third parties will be nationalistic and “do what it takes” economically to protect the middle class from the global pressures.

If we are lucky, here in the U.S., this will be an historic opportunity for the re-emergence of a starkly de-regulated free market experiment.

President Obama has enacted in his first two years — and is in the process of politically road testing — a classic big, statist government response to economic hardship. Unless it succeeds beyond current expectation, Obama will have established a failed template — against which future economic proposals will be aggressively contrasted.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal could never have been sold to the public in the absence of the perceived failure of Hooverism. De-regulated free markets would not be given a serious re-consideration across the political spectrum without the imminently manifest failure of the Obama model.

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  • Indioviejo

    "Re-emergency of a starkly deregulated free market experiment." Yes, this is what is needed, but we will need a bold leader perhaps with TEA party connections. Michelle Bachmann and John Bolton could be the ticket.

  • ObamaYoMoma

    Personally, I'd like to see term limits more than anything else to end the epoch of career politicians because they inevitably always put themselves first over the interests of the country and people that elected them.

  • Jim

    the massive corruption of the government has created an economic mess that has ruined many lives.
    the public should watch their law makers like a hawk. When they do not deliver on every issue especially of economic consequence the public should initiate a recall election.

    The public follows their favorite sports with great enthusiasm. The should think of politics as a sport. It will be the public as one team and the politician as the opposing team.

    Politicians who do not advocate strongly for the public positions can not be trusted.

    We have no party who represents the public will

    • Jim_C

      But see, I think the "public will," for example, was to take care of the health care situation. Personally, I'll never understand why businesses wouldn't love to have the expense of health care relieved. And there are several models for national care under which consumers have choices and private companies can pursue profit. It really seems like a no-brainer: combine a first-world model with tort reform. Yet we have to boogeyman everything remotely nationalized as "S—lism." All because, really, insurance and drug companies and lawyers will miss that gravy train.

      I think the money is just too attractive and too effective. Even the best intentioned politicians are beholden.

  • StephenD

    Apart from the attractiveness that is initially offered, isolationism just isn't the American Way. The solution for America politically does not lie in the formation or introduction on the ticket of a Third Party (Libertarian, Socialist, Labor, Nationalist, et al) but rather the very real impact on the existing parties of movements like the TEA PARTY. Though not a member in writing I certainly am in spirit. Long Live the TEA PARTY!

    • Jim_C

      I think if the TEA party truly grasped the other side of the story they'd be a powerful movement indeed. Some individuals among them truly do, but as a whole, the TEA party is really just republicans disgruntled about Obama. If they were really against the corruption and collusion in government that helped usher in this poor economy, they'd say so–but they don't, and thus, aren't. Right now, they're just typical Republicans who happen to go places and carry signs.

  • jason tayor

    Boldness is only intermittently a "positive quality" in government; when there is a war or natural disaster for instance. It is better to have boldness in enterprenuers and rulers who are more or less satisfied to repair roads, deliver mail, and keep people from beating each other up to badly.

    In government boldness is often another word for "will to power".