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'Stealth Democracy'

On the recommendation of a friendly reader, I've been reading 'Stealth Democracy,' which despite being published in 2002 and having nothing to do with health care, is probably the single most useful book for understanding why the Nelson deal -- and the long political process -- did such terrible damage to the health-care bill. The abstract gives a nice precis of the argument:

Americans often complain about the operation of their government, but scholars have never developed a complete picture of people’s preferred type of government. In this provocative and timely book, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse, employing an original national survey and focus groups, report the governmental procedures Americans desire. Contrary to the prevailing view that people want greater involvement in politics, most citizens do not care about most policies and therefore are content to turn over decision-making authority to someone else. People’s wish for the political system is that decision makers be empathetic and, especially, non-self-interested, not that they be responsive and accountable to the people’s largely nonexistent policy preferences or, even worse, that the people be obligated to participate directly in decision making.

More on this later.

By Ezra Klein  |  January 25, 2010; 11:32 AM ET
Categories:  Books , Political Science  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: There's nothing new about deals
Next: Think Tank: Medical malpractice, China and the hot new place for poverty


In the nineties, I worked for a financial company that got itself exempted, BY NAME, from a piece of new banking legislation, so yeah, this is nothing new.

Posted by: davidleetodd | January 25, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

That abstract speaks pretty poorly of us as a people.

Posted by: MosBen | January 25, 2010 12:17 PM | Report abuse

You can see that sentiment in California, where the public is angry about being continually besieged by ballot initiatives about issues that they feel that the professional politicians should be fixing. And this feeling about initiatives causes the public's opinion of the legislature to fall. Of course, much of the time there might be constitutional requirements for the ballot measure (thanks to Prop 13 and other measures, some of which were originally approved by the public in ballot initiatives) or could be caused by budget constraints (e.g., much of the budget's shape is mandated, like the % that goes to education). But much of the public doesn't see that, and instead feels angry about politicians that can't or won't do their job.

Posted by: meander510 | January 25, 2010 12:31 PM | Report abuse

And on the other side, we have the "Wrecking Crew" whose primary objective is to staff governmental agencies with the least capable workers and thereby discourage the citizenship from expecting any level of competence from government.

Posted by: Athena_news | January 25, 2010 2:04 PM | Report abuse

But if the bill was popular to begin with, you wouldn't need all these bribes.

Posted by: MrDo64 | January 25, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse

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