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The Gap Between Politics & Common Sense

MADISON, Wis. — I’m a political aficionado. I follow the vicissitudes and intricacies of politics like baseball fans follow the results, standings, and stats of the Major Leagues.

Like any true fan, I linger addictively over the “inside baseball” aspect of politics — the clash of ideologies, unlikely alliances among apparent opponents, the demographics of hot-button issues, etc. But, like the casual baseball fan who doesn’t understand the infield-fly rule, normal voters, with bigger fish to fry, don’t enjoy the arcana of politics. Moreso than political junkies, normal people perceive that, too often, political outcomes, and even the debates that precede those outcomes, bear no relation to common sense.

Don't We All?

Common-sense solutions run into problems when they come up for a vote.

Common-sense solutions run into problems when they come up for a vote.

Two examples in today’s news brought this gap between politics-as-usual and common sense to mind.

The trigger that got me thinking was a New York Times editorial about the broad failure of harsh austerity measures among EU countries. The NYT suggests that, to reverse the downward spiral of nations like Italy and Spain, the EU should “allow… weaker nations to issue bonds backed by the euro zone… Faster growth and lower unemployment would provide the resources that could later be used to pay down debts…”

This common-sense solution — invest now, pay later — reflects a basic principle refined a century ago by John Maynard Keynes. Since the Great Depression, Keynesian public investment strategies have been a proven approach to recovery from a recession. The most popular opposing strategy, austerity, is more politically moralistic and instinctual than it is economic. But the best argument against austerity is simple common sense: It doesn’t work.

Corporations as people
In the same issue of the NYT, historian James Livingston poses a common-sense response to the oft-stated proposition (lately supported by the US Supreme Court) that “corporations are people” blessed with the same rights and privileges, under the Constitution, that apply to individual citizens. If that’s what corporations really want, says Livingston, OK! Let’s order the IRS to treat corporations exactly the way it treats ordinary taxpayers:

We can finance any amount of transfer payments and “entitlements” by taxing corporations’ profits in the same way we tax personal income, using a progressive formula… make them pay higher taxes on their income. Do that, and the federal deficit goes away.

Livingston’s logic is inescapable, and objectively intuitive. It’s also politically unthinkable. It amounts to an outrage against the special status of America’s self-styled plutocracy, which, if ever seriously proposed, would invite millions of words in denunciation and billions of dollars in lobbying invoices.

While I pondered other nagging political problems whose common-sense solutions are sitting out in the open, waiting in vain to be seized by a politician with an ounce of courage, I thought about Palestine.

For years, common-sense students of Middle-Eastern politics have known how to end the territorial stalemate between the state of Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The West Bank borders carved out by the 1967 war have long been acknowledged as the de facto line between Israel and a proposed Palestinian state. However, there are now some West Bank Israeli settlements that couldn’t be uprooted without another war. The solution is no secret: Reshape the border to include within Israel the stubbornest of the settlements, and swap chunks of less-disputed Israeli land (including East Jerusalem) to Palestine, equalizing territory on both sides.

Sounds so simple…
The solution is common sense. The eternal obstacle is politics.

OK, let’s see if common sense can apply to gun safety. Of course it can!

The NRA’s brain trust calls for more — and more powerful — guns, in schools, churches, bars, courtrooms, etc. The anti-gun movement has answers that supposedly threaten the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to pack heat and to bequeath their RPGs and .50-cal sniper guns to their children.

Common sense argues vehemently against some of these proposals. But the evidence on both sides tends to be thin and disputable. The common-sense answer? Pass 'em all — every law, pro-gun and anti-gun, that’s been proposed — with a ten-year sunset provision. As an experimental control, draw a line at the Mississippi River, with half the nation operating under pro-gun laws and the other half vice-versa.

After 10 years, we’ll have loads of data on whether gun violence is better reduced by, for example, arming all the teachers in Kansas with AK-47s, or by banning gun shows and 30-round magazines in Virginia.

Afterwards, of course, common sense suggests that, if we really want to stifle gun violence, we’ll make permanent the measures that actually work best.

Unfortunately, common sense also suggests that the NRA will block everything.

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11 comments on “The Gap Between Politics & Common Sense

  1. HM
    April 18, 2013

    Wow thats very interesting.  The Gap between politics and common sense. I would say to do politics you hardly need any common sense. The moment one thinks from some senses he can not be a politician.

  2. SP
    April 18, 2013

    If you really want to see gap between politics and common sense, see Indian politics. The Indian politicians speak as if they have no common sense. All they do is to take political mileage from their act and speech.

  3. Wale Bakare
    April 18, 2013

    Haaaa! Have you long been observing/researching into that? Meanwhile, we have wrong assumption about “common sense”. Is it really a common thing?

  4. rohscompliant
    April 18, 2013

    A recent Gallup Poll (take it for what is worth)

    – Recently surveyed that; Law Enforcement Officials would rather have more citizens owing legally obtained fire arms.

    – < 4% of the people surveyed are concerned w/ the 'gun issue".

    – Majority of respondents believe that the NRA is more honest than our politicans.

    How's that for some common sense……..btw …I am not a gun owner…….but back the 2nd amendment fully.

  5. Brian Fuller
    April 18, 2013

    Benji, I love ya dearly, but I tend to side with @rohscompliant. It's a bit presumptuous to say that something common sense. That's your opinion, and that's OK. 

    The fact that politicians seize up over a lot of these issues suggest that one man's common sense is another's lunacy. 

    For example, “invest now, pay later” has gotten Europe to the place it's stumbled to. Creating systems in which public employees can retire at 45 or 50 is, IMHO, budgetary lunacy, especially when that effectively shuts off a worker's production for another 20 years (unless, of course they double-dip, which is commonplace).

    Somewhere, there's a balance between too much austerity, which can paralyze and foment revolution, and none. 

     

  6. Richbuyer
    April 19, 2013

    Do we really ALL hate politics? No, I think it's more a matter of :  we all hate the deception that all too often corrupts the political process. If opposing points of view could be hashed out honestly, let's then choose what makes the best sense. Unfortunately, too often, rational argument is replaced with debate tactics, meant to emotionally steer the thoughts and opinions of the audience. This has only been made worse by the manipulation of the Media, who've all but abandoned honest journalism for the sake of “yellow jounalism”, and reasoned commentary for intellectual bullying tactics, clearly intoxicated with their consolidated power to drive public opinion. 

    This article, David, is an excellent example of just such abuse of political discourse. I respect an opposing viewpoint and the right of one to state their case. However, what I find offensive is the persuasion by manipulation demonstrated in your piece. You offer no sound reasoning, but plenty of demagoguery. No room to refute your two examples of your “common sense”, but check these out: “invest now, pay later — reflects a basic principle…a proven approach to recovery from a recession.” Proven? Really? Aside from playing loose with language redefinition, you then lead right into “the best argument against austerity is simple common sense: It doesn't work.” All right, point well made! Not! Keynes has had plenty of time to prove his concepts faulty, even leading him to retract some of them. Later, you suggest soaking corporations so that “the federal deficit goes away. Livingston's logic is inescapable, and objectively intuitive.” Really?! In what parallel universe? Did the deficit just double because business was suddenly paying less?  Out of control statists show no sign of restraint of their penchant for plundering producers, but you pretend like it's obvious common sense to find ways to simply give them more money to spend! Well, Everyone knows…surely…clearly…obviously..! Your skillful art of presentation doesn't distract from the questions begged, but steered away by you.

    The gun smear technique is really your best. “that supposedly threaten the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to pack heat and to bequeath their RPGs and .50-cal sniper guns to their children.” You should be ashamed of yourself for this despicable snobbery. I see that you're not – you're proud of the craft you honed as an editor. Madison, WI ? Perfect. The Socialist capital of the US. While I ignorantly cling to my guns and religion, I'd rather not have to be assaulted by your insulting screeds in a jounal for techies and Supply Chainers.

     At least add the disclaimer: David Benjamin : Minister of Stealth “Pravdaganda”

  7. FLYINGSCOT
    April 21, 2013

    Please someone educate this dumb Brit (me) and tell me why every citizen really needs to have the freedom to buy assault rifles and semi auto weaponry? What useful purpose does that right serve?

  8. Ariella
    April 21, 2013

    @Wale I agree with you that it appears all too uncommon. But the phrase also reminds me of the most popular political tract ever to be published in the United States, Thomas Paine's Common Sense . Obviously, what he regarded as a common sense argument, that Britian should let the Colonies be independent, was regarded as treachery by the British. So one man's common sense, is another man's political posturing. 

  9. HM
    April 22, 2013

    Agreed Brit. There is absoluetely no need for everyone to keeps rifles and other weapons. Its very dangerous. Because sometimes when emotions are high people make silly mistakes that can never be repaired. Weapons are good with police and armed forces not with every citizens.

  10. Ravenwood
    April 23, 2013

     

    FANCY : The NRA's brain trust calls for more — and more powerful — guns, in schools, churches, bars, courtrooms, etc.

    FACT : The NRA has never “called for” more guns in schools, churches, bars, courtrooms, etc. What the NRA has suggested is the option to permit the arming of those persons responsible for Public safety with guns. If the Prinicipal of Sandy Hook Elementary had the chance to chase-down the gunman armed instead of unarmed, Common Sense would lean toward her making an armed response.

    FANCY : The anti-gun movement has answers that supposedly threaten the Constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens to pack heat and to bequeath their RPGs and .50-cal sniper guns to their children.

    FACT : How many Sany Hook / Columbine / Aurora CO lives would have been saved with such legislation? How many inherited guns are attributed to gun violence? Common Sense should lead us to the major cause for gun violence — not toward “feel-good” useless legislation.

    FANCY : Common sense argues vehemently against some of these proposals.

    FACT : Common Sense argues reasonably in favor of NRA's armed response option. Example: In San Antonio, Texas, a gunman opened fire in a restaurant, followed by the shooting of an unarmed citizen in a parking lot then headed for a movie theater. The gunman was taken-down by an armed citizen — a woman in-fact — before he could enter the movie house. This story barely received a mention in the liberal media outlets, perhaps because it exemplifies the NRA point: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2012/12/17/texas-movie-theater-shooting/1774199/

    FANCY : But the evidence on both sides tends to be thin and disputable.

    FACT : The legislators of America have their offices of power protected by metal detectors, X-Ray and armed guard security systems. These are the same legislators who belittle active school security. There seems to be an American double-standard when it comes to the security of public buildings, and the protection of children versus judges and politicians.

    FANCY : The common-sense answer? Pass 'em all — every law, pro-gun and anti-gun, that's been proposed — with a ten-year sunset provision. As an experimental control, draw a line at the Mississippi River, with half the nation operating under pro-gun laws and the other half vice-versa.

    FACT : No need to rebuttal that scenario…or the existance of faeries.

    FANCY : After 10 years, we'll have loads of data on whether gun violence is better reduced by, for example, arming all the teachers in Kansas with AK-47s, or by banning gun shows and 30-round magazines in Virginia.

    FACT : The NRA never advocated arming all the teachers in Kansas with AK-47s. That is the rhetoric of anti-gun fanatics. None of the tragedies that have been thoroughly exploited by anti-gun fanatics have gun show root-cause, or even secondary associations. 

    FANCY : Afterwards, of course, common sense suggests that, if we really want to stifle gun violence, we'll make permanent the measures that actually work best.

    FACT : Too late: The murder rate in 2011 was the lowest in American history since 1911. The greatest dip during that period — 1980's to present — coincides with a quadrupling of State issuance of conceal carry permits. Therein lies your “measures that work best”. Common Sense seems to agree that an armed society is a politer society. http://www.americanthinker.com/2012/12/listening_to_the_latest_media.html

    FANCY : Unfortunately, common sense also suggests that the NRA will block everything.

    FACT : Fortunately, common sense also suggests that the NRA will block everything.

     

  11. Ravenwood
    April 23, 2013

    Very-well:

    First Question: ” …why every citizen really needs to have the freedom to buy assault rifles and semi auto weaponry? “

    First Answer: When colonial America revolted against King George, one of the first responses was to attempt to disarm the colonists. ref.: Administrative and Regulatory Law News (American Bar Association). Vol. 37, no. 4, Summer 2012 . Consequently America's Founding Fathers were keen to allow it's citizens the right to bear arms against tyranny, without discrimination as whether that tyranny was internal or external.

    Second Question: “…What useful purpose does that right serve?”

    Second Answer : America has witnessed our society at it's worst at times when it should rise to it's best. I was eyewitness to the 1960's inner city race rioting. Our neighborhood was abandonned by police, who were called-in to protect the seats of government. Left on their own the citizens in my community blocked entrances to neighborhoods with cars, then stood at intersections with loaded rifles, and waited. Violence and turmoil came, saw, and kept going — quickly. During the L.A. race riots neighborhoods were again abandonned by police, who were called-in to protect the seats of government. In the Korean merchant district shop keepers stood in their doorways and on rooftops with semi-auto rifles, including AK-47s. The violence and turmoil came — saw — and kept going. While large portions of east L.A. burned, the Korean district stayed intact. Not a shot fired/not a window broken.

    When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans the police were overwhelmed, some reportedly abandoned their duty to aid and assist their own families. There was widespread looting, except where shopkeepers and homeowners had the ability to defend themselves: http://www.scotsman.com/news/international/looters-run-riot-after-hurricane-katrina-1-1092809

    Tornados hit the American South every year, and every year there is looting: http://www.nbcnews.com/id/42903204/ns/weather/t/con-men-looters-plague-tornado-torn-south/

    When Hurricane Sandy recently hit New Jersey, the tradegy for it's unarmed residents was furthered by looting: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/31/hurricane-sandy-looting-brooklyn-coney-island_n_2047183.html

    Many Americans believe the fallacy that police can effectively protect its citizenry, until they experience the harsh reality first-hand: When it comes to assault, Police are typically reactive, not proactive. Yes, they'll chase the bad guys after I've been shot, but if I'm armed and able to defend myself I just might be spared the need for their after-the-crime services.

    There are thousands of attempted crimes thwarted every year by armed American citizens, but they go virtually unreported. When I took the CNN tour in Atlanta a few years ago I asked one of the Directors, who stepped out to meet us, why such stories got little attention. The answer was as regrettable as it was honest: “The building that didn't burn-down, the dog that almost attacked, the gunman that didn't shoot, isn't news”.

    As a member of the NRA my experience is that we have never advocated anything other than safe gun ownership, safe gun operation, and the preservation of the 2nd Amendment. I'm also a member of the ACLU. I find the two organizations mutually compatible regarding the preservation of civil liberty. In the U.S., if you are comfortable outsourcing your personal safety to police there is Good News: You're not obligated to own & operate a gun.

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