Getting to Gridlock

With another stomach-turning season of political fatuousness behind us, the consensus among mainstream voices in opinion and the blogosphere has resolved in conclusion that the results mean gridlock in DC. The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein, anticipating a period of sober steadiness in politics, talks about “oversight” and “paralysis” in Congress as if the federal government were poised to switch gears and hit the brakes.

Meanwhile, Paul Wiseman of the Associated Press worries that an obdurate Republican House presages a “goodbye to recovery,” a dangerous legislative standstill that preventing the relief we need.

Wiseman and Klein, taking the campaign promises of Republicans a bit too seriously, seem to misunderstand the much less antagonistic reality of American political culture. If we occupied the strange dimension they imagine, with dueling parties at loggerheads obstructing legislation, then we libertarians might indeed have reason to celebrate this election.

Though we’re meant to see an uncooperative atmosphere in Washington as “block[ing] any new help for [the] economy,” and as a “relief from regulation” for Big Business, neither of those assumptions are at all accurate, at least not in the way Wiseman has in mind. The “help” contemplated by the statist mainstream is policy like the bailouts — the state’s thieving life support for corporate freeloaders — but such legislation only taints the economy for the rest of us. So while commentators gullibly believe that the state could and would rescue us little people if not for stubbornness and divisiveness, the reality is that “public” policy is carefully molded to the needs of the oligarchy.

Libertarians can find some tragic amusement, then, in soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner’s post-election remark that “[w]e can celebrate when we have a government that has earned back the trust of the people it serves.” The state, notwithstanding the wide-eyed daydreams of its adulators, has never had anything but the utmost trust of those whom it serves — just those Big Business interests that Wiseman surmises would profit from its absence.

The preservation of the state, its arbitrary laws and its many moving parts, is an overriding concern for Big Business, which attentively and dutifully supports a political program inimical to true free markets. The kind of gridlock that frets votaries of the state would actually be fatal to the behemoths of our state-corporate economy, but it could never come through the political process.

Nothing would be better for ordinary people — consumers and wage earners in the productive, nonpolitical class — than for something to throw a wrench into the gears of power, to slow or stop altogether the production of enslaving laws. Elections, on the other hand, signal to politicians that we condone, even commend, their comfortable management of this factory for injustice. Where no election could hinder the ruinous advancement of the state, bringing about a genuine frustration of lawmaking process, anarchism is the one route to a total freeze, to a voluntary order where individuals manage their own affairs.

“Bipartisanship,” wrote political author Ryan Sager following the 2006 midterms, “is just another word for ‘terrible idea.’” And just as with every earlier Congress, we are about to see a profusion of those. Those who place their confidence in the state, who see it as an earnest if clumsy problem solver rather than a malignant parasite, observe Election Day like a high holy day; that’s why they hate the idea of gridlock. Why, they wonder, would anyone want to stand in the way of straightening out society?

But as economist Thomas DiLorenzo explains in a recent blog post, political gridlock is a myth. “The two parties conspire against the public to maintain their power, agreeing on 99% of all the big issues.” That myth sits atop the one that politicians are solving problems rather than creating them, and both myths must be addressed before we can bring about a society without sanctioned coercion.

I eagerly await the day when the state’s wheels, deprived of the grease that political participation imparts, bind up and stop turning, making gridlock more than just a buzzword for naive pundits.

Citations to this article:

Free Markets & Capitalism?
Markets Not Capitalism
Organization Theory
Conscience of an Anarchist