Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Congressional Polarization

I am quite ready to admit that I don't know what the best action is for the federal government to take regarding the current financial woes (should we even label it a "crisis"?). One thing I am skeptical of is whether a reasonable, well-thought-out plan is likely to come out of the Congress. Part of the problem is the increasing polarization within the Congress. Here's an interesting graph from Keith Poole at the University of California, San Diego (HT: Slate) that shows the disappearance of moderates in Congress.

With partisanship fervor at such high levels, it seems like our national leaders are more interested in fixing the blame than in fixing the problem. But, again, it's all about incentives. Members of Congress come from increasingly partisan districts, so this type of behavior makes it easier for them to get re-elected.


  1. I agree. Partisanship has thrown us into to the argument over who is to blame instead of how to get out of this mess. I believe who to blame is a sunk cost at this point.

  2. What exactly is a "moderate" anyway? Someone who has no principles? Is there a list somewhere of great "moderate" policies?

    The 50s were an exception to politics (and journalism) in the US. We were more geography focused than party focused. Bipartisanship brought us segregation and medicare. Not exactly a great track record.

    Between John Adam's Presidency and World War II, we were a partisan nation. Our current political environment is just regressing to the mean.

    Do not dismiss "Doing Nothing" as a great solution to most public policy "problems".

  3. If the markets truly are efficient, then this economic spiral is just a correction towards the norm. Wall street got us into this mess. Wall street should be encouraged to fix their own mess.