Thursday, March 16, 2017

Congressional Complacence?

Don't confuse it for political obstructionism

George Mason University economics professor and author Tyler Cowen has a new book – The Complacent Class – and yesterday posted an accompanying quiz, "How Complacent Are You?" I took the quiz and rated, "Tier 2: You are a striver – You embrace newness, but you need to strive harder to break the mold." That's about right: sometimes it takes a boot in the bum to get me out of my routine.

Question 11 asks: "You get angry about something you see happening in politics. What do you do next?" One of the choices was: "Sign a petition." In 2012 and 2014 I was angry enough to run for Congress, a task that required me to collect signatures from voters to get on the ballot. I tweeted, and got a response.
But it made me think: does running for political office make me a "Tier 1: Trailblazer"? Sure, it gets me off my duff and into the fray but what if I'm running just to maintain the status quo? What if my goal is to stifle change? What if my aspiration is to become a career politician? If I'm really convinced that the present is best or even that we need to roll back progress to a simpler and less dynamic time, am I complacent?

Though I've had Mr. Cowen's book for over a week, I haven't cracked it yet – a sure sign of complacence. Maybe I'll find the answers to these questions in its pages. But I think it's important to separate complacence from obstructionism: we may complain about a "do-nothing Congress" while failing to see the slow roll of incumbents protecting their jobs and the entrenched economic interests they serve.

In one of his videos, Mr. Cowen states: "Mixing creates economic opportunity, and it boosts the chances of new ideas." Stirring the economic pot is dangerous to those with a stake in the status quo; don't be surprised when they kick back at change.