Most "Government 101" type textbooks begin with a wordy introductory chapter about why government exists. This takes students through basic concepts like the use of politics to solve problems without resorting to violence and collective action problems. CAPs are a very basic kind of problem wherein what is good for an individual (especially in the short term) is not good for the whole. As the recently-mocked Ezra Klein notes, the study of Congress is basically the study of CAPs. The current "efforts" (inasmuch as political kabuki theater counts) to shut down the government are a perfect example; each individual Republican benefits from trying to shut down the government but the party as a whole is likely to suffer badly if it happens.

Individual Republican legislators benefit because trying to shut down the government appeases Teabagging types and lessens the odds of a primary challenge from the right. This situation has been a challenge for the congressional leadership structure for 230 years. Leaders like Boehner & Co. traditionally rely on persuasion to keep members in line. As Klein says, "Threats, flattery, fundraising money, and plum committee assignments are all deployed to keep members of Congress from undermining the group in order to help themselves." In other words, the ability to talk individual members into supporting the collective good depends on the leadership being able to offer rewards that members cannot get elsewhere.

One of the problems the current House GOP is discovering, aside from the general recognition that Boehner is terrible and the backbenchers are a collection of rubes, zealots, and morons, is the fact that fundraising money is no longer an effective carrot. For that, the party has only itself to blame. By fighting so hard for the changes that were ushered in by the Citizens United decision, Republicans created a system in which individual candidates or members of Congress can get gobs of money without the party's help. All they need is a cranky billionaire in their corner or sufficient ideological extremity to ensure access to the Tea Party / FreedomWorks / Koch Industries trough of money. John Boehner's threat to withhold funds from the National Republican Congressional Committee doesn't exactly leave any members, even freshmen, quaking in their boots.

Whatever misfortunes befall the House GOP at this point are rooted in their decades of advocacy for unlimited campaign spending. They got what they wanted and now it is coming back to bite them in the ass. There's only so much the Speaker and Majority Leader can do to sway members with talk of committee seats. When the ability to get elected and re-elected depends more on groups outside of the party than on the party itself, you're not going to have a very cohesive party. If, hypothetically, your members were mostly none-too-bright extremists, you might end up with quite a mess on your hands. When the members are more afraid of the donors and Tea Party groups than the leadership, the collective action problem becomes nearly impossible to resolve.

They have made their bed – let them lie in it. With a Koch brother of their choice. I hear Charles is a cuddler.

Be Sociable, Share!

32 Responses to “ASS-BITTEN”

  1. Arslan Says:

    While I know it's not the main thrust of this article, I find it amusing that these textbooks have to have such long introductions about why we have government. This is an example of the bourgeois having to educate people but not being able to tell the truth, something which would take less than one page:

    "We live in a class-based, exploitative society where a minority class exploits the majority. Since people naturally don't like this, there must be a system which wields a monopoly on violence, backed up by its organs of legal violence, i.e. the military and police. "


  2. Death Panel Truck Says:

    "I hear Charles is a cuddler."

    While David finds 'em, feels 'em, fucks 'em and forgets 'em.

  3. Xynzee Says:

    What we are seeing with the GOP on the micro is the effect of their ideological(-economic) policies on the macro.

    For the past 30+ years the GOP has been agitating and advocating for "outsourcing" of work and companies to get others to do their work for them. So why not outsource their fundraising and communications.

    Now like Boeing has found with the 787, how quickly you can lose control of the quality of the product.

    So now with Rush-n-Co able to say whatever they want, the GOP has lost control of their messaging. Only the hardest, craziest, most extreme — ratings grabbing — ideas are espoused. If Rush wants to say Dick Lugar isn't hard enough, who can stop him? He's a problem of their own making.

    If Heritage wants to suck in the rubes with tales of woe and fear to stop the Space Mutant Amazons from Planet Wongo who control the lie-bruls and the lie-brul media, thereby draining available funds for sensible candidates, who can stop them.

    Shorter: the GOP ideologues are learning what many of us have known for a long time: outsourcing = BAD!

  4. wetcasements Says:

    Remember back in the 90's when the Conservative media machine really got going? Rush wasn't quite as bloated, there were people who genuinely thought FOX news was "fair and balanced," etc?

    My pet theory is pretty simple. The Republican noise machine started off as a brilliant win-win for cons — make money and help get your guys elected by braying and pants-shitting and making the loudest racist dog-whistles possible.

    Ca. 2013 though, the noise machine is doing just fine. You only need about three and a half brain cells to jump on the sweet, sweet wingnut welfare machine (same if you're a Libertarian, because Libertarians are Republicans who are too ashamed to admit it).

    But as Ed points out, now there's a disconnect. FOX and Rush and Breitbart and Cato don't really _need_ to get their guys elected any longer. In fact, it helps their fundraising when they _don't_ get their guys elected, because then they can just turn into louder WATBs and scream that they need your money now more than ever.

    Is this a healthy thing for a democracy? Yes and no. It certainly doesn't help that the right-wing cocoon gets fatter and more insulated every year. Then again, we're watching a pretty amazing implosion of the GOP on a national level, and that's definitely a good thing for America.

    Good times.

  5. c u n d gulag Says:

    When you lie down with rabid dogs like the Teabaggers, you shouldn't be surprised when you wake up bitten, and with rabid fleas.

    Up until very recently, House and Senate leadership could reward party loyalty for Congresscritters who voted against what the general political wishes of their constituents might be, with some sort of pork-barrel projects that the Rep. could bring back and tout: "See, I come home bearing a new bridge, a couple of new roads, and an airport expansion – and jobs!"

    Now, with this idiotic "Sequester" choking things in all areas all around the country, there's little or no pork to give, for a Republican Rep who might decide to go along with his/her parties leaders, for the overall benefit of their party.

    My hope is that the party splinters, and the Teabaggers form their own 3rd Party – on district, state, and a nation level.

    In their current state, getting the Republican Party anywhere near control of the Executive AND legislative branches, is a recipe for a form of Theocratic Fascist government.

    They already control the SCOTUS, and many of the Federal Courts.

    So, if both houses of a loony Congress pass loony theocratic laws and ones benefiting the Plutocrats, the President will gladly sign them, and the courts approve them.

    And we will have an "Idiocracy."
    A very religious "Idiocracy."
    Think, "Idiocracy," meets "The Handmaid's Tale," meets "1984."

  6. deep Says:

    I still don't get what the consequences of the GOP fracturing are going to be. It's not like any congressman's seat will be lost; they're all gerrymandered into pretty safe locations. So even though some might have close races in the primaries or general next year, I doubt any of them will lose their job and congress will probably still look the same in 2015 as it did in 2013.

    The democrats are amused at the internal strife, but they're not going to get anything out of it… are they?

  7. cromartie Says:


    The answer in 2014 is no. 2016, provided Hillary is at the top of the ticket, stands to change things considerably. 2020, and the subsequent redistricting, will swing the balance in their direction considerably, if they play their cards right, which they are terrible at, of course.

    But it's a waiting game, really. After the 1996 government shutdown, Republicans lost a total of nine seats. It takes time.

  8. Leo Artunian Says:

    Xynzee –

    If "Space Mutant Amazons from Planet Wongo" = "Wild Women of Wongo," I've seen this film before, and it ain't good:

  9. c u n d gulag Says:

    Charles Koch is a cuddler, in the same way that a boa constrictor is.

  10. Number Three Says:

    Committee assignments have become a lot less important to members of Congress for a couple of reasons. First, as more unified rank-and-file empowers stronger party leadership, weakening the autonomy of the committees. Bills today can bypass committee consideration altogether. The effect has probably been greatest on what used to be "prestige" committees, especially House Rules, which today is not an assignment members seek (unthinkable in the 1960s). Second, the modern system–permanent campaign with little actual, you know, legislating–tends to lead to the recruitment of candidates who are less interested in public policy than (my sense is) members used to be. Even members who would be interested in policy don't have time. Members on the phone four hours a day raising money–where do they find that time? By not working on something in committee.

    So weaken the committees and elect members without time or inclination to master a policy area under their committee's jurisdiction.

  11. Stefan Says:

    Prime example of Prisoners Dilemma ( Which in case of the Rethuglicans i would rather name Idiots Dilemma.

    Even if demonstrated they will fail to see the point of cooperation if it isnt 'achieved' by thinking of yourself first. If everyone thinks of themselves first everyone is being taken care of right??

  12. Gerald McGrew Says:

    They have made their bed – let them lie in it.

    The problem is, we're all laying in it.

  13. bb in GA Says:


    For the Record per W'pedia

    "The Republican Party had a net loss of eight seats in the House in the 1996 elections but retained a 228-207 seat majority. In the Senate, Republicans GAINED two seats."

    Some interpretation here D/R/O went from 204/230/1 to 207/226/2 However we spin it, no disaster took place in the Congress for the Rs because of shutting it down.

    But, of course, Bubba got re-elected. I think Sen Dole was such a horrible candidate (the McCain trainer) it is difficult to hang the loss on the 'Shutdown (s).'


  14. Barry Says:

    "The problem is, we're all laying in it."

    Yes – otherwise, my advice would be to set up automated 'kinetic' systems on our shared border, which will 'neutralize' anybody crossing, wall the place off and let it rot.

  15. Sarah Says:

    In other words, the ability to talk individual members into supporting the collective good depends on the leadership being able to offer rewards that members cannot get elsewhere.

    The entire basis for libertarian ideology is selfishness and the notion that the individual is more important than the group. One of the things that I find so amusing about libertarianism (and bear in mind that I bought into it as a young under-25 voter) is the fact that they have to go around convincing other people to buy into it in order to have it spread and succeed (succeeding in this sense meaning that enough people have bought into it that it affects actual change, not meaning that the change is positive). So they use a socialist approach and tactics in order to promote an anti-socialist ideology. The absurdity of this was brought into stark relief for me a couple of years ago, when the philosophy prof I was taking at the time said that he would always ask the libertarians he met, why should he buy into their ideology. Well, they'd say, if everybody believed and acted this way, we'd all be better off. Yeah, my prof said, but if I'm a libertarian then by definition I do not care if other people are better off.

  16. bb in GA Says:

    Cund fears an American Christo-taliban led by a bunch of wild assed Duck Dynastarians (I look like Uncle SI!). I'm in the ditch on the other side of the road.

    The future of the USA is left leaning fascism we have seen before in many places in the past. Soros and Koch have more in common w/ each other than they do with YOU Lefty. The Rs will destroy themselves into several pieces before your very eyes.

    Our dear leader and his gang will prevail and we will/are devolve(ing) into a Mexico like country w/ a 50 year run of the PRI/PRN in our future.

    Odds are less than 50% IMO that the whole country remains together during that period.

    I don't know how much of this I will live to see because of my age (Which makes many of y'all Happy Happy Happy – to quote Phil Robertson)


  17. mothra Says:

    Yeah, the problem with being gleeful at the Repugs burning down the house is that we all happen to live in that house with them.

  18. c u n d gulag Says:

    bb in GA,
    I want a SANE Republican Party.
    Imo, I believe that we, as a country, NEED a sane Republican Party – or, Conservative Party.

    I've voted for Republicans before (though not a lot of them) not only in local and state-wide election, but for the US House and Senate. Though never for President.
    They were sane old-school Republicans – not wild-eyed Nihilists and revolutionaries.
    I didn't agree with them on a lot, but I felt that in those elections, they were the better of the two or three parties candidates (note: I have voted for 3rd Party candidates in local and state elections – just never one with any national implications. Though, John Anderson was appealing – until I realized that voting for him was a sure way to get Reagan/Bush, which, sadly, happened anyway).

    And bb, I never wished you any ill – and never will.
    Generally, you and I have had civil disagreements – and, if there was anyone who might have gotten out of line, it wasn't you, it was me.

    You are one of those reasonable, sane, Conservatives. Ones I used to be able to talk to, and discuss issues with.
    But THOSE days are sadly long, long gone.

    We need a balance of left v. right – Liberal v. Conservative.
    And Conservatives have had some decent to good ideas before – PPACA, being one of them.

    And we'll need them again.
    It just that right now, the Republican Party stands for the very worst of the Id in the Conservative's souls, and what passes for their 'minds.'

  19. bb in GA Says:


    your kindness and generosity of spirit is appreciated and not likely duplicated.

    I think we went past the PoNR on this flight. I don't see a way back that doesn't involve blood and tears.

    I think the Technology Wielding Totalitarians win in the end and it matters little if they are a Christo-fascist Right Wing Junta or Che' and Fidel's soul mates.


  20. c u n d gulag Says:

    Well, bb, if you're right, at least the Technology Wielding Totalitarians don't object to gay people. and a woman's right to make choices about her own body, so, at least they have THAT going for them. ;-)

    So far…

  21. Bosh Says:

    The consequence of the Republicans splintering is that there will be a lot of votes in which a faction of the Republicans vote no to anything to the left of what they imagine Reagan to be. And then since you can't get those guys on board you have to either pass nothing since you can't muster a majority or rely more on Democrat votes than would be necessary if the Republicans were more united (see Sandy aid).

  22. Chris Says:

    It's sad because it's true. Now write a similar piece about how Bloomberg's money will do the same thing.

  23. Major Kong Says:


    "Che' and Fidel's soul mates"

    Seriously? I mean, really. Red-baiting is so 1956. I'd better go check the garage to see if my car grew tail fins.

    Because of what? A watered-down, corporate-friendly health care reform (sort of) law?

    Let's suppose that every liberal's wet dream came true and we turned ourselves into Sweden. I've been to Sweden and it ain't that bad of a place and certainly looks nothing like post-revolutionary Cuba.

    If we end up looking like Mexico it will be because the corporations only want to pay Mexican level wages.

  24. Xynzee Says:

    @ bb:
    When Bob Dole, Dick Lugar and Orrin Hatch are considered not "conservative enough" and one them was primaried and the other nearly was, then you have a problem.

    Whilst protesting against abortion was one thing the main stream of the conservatives renounced shooting doctors an bombing clinics. When this level of extremism is invited in with open arms and encouraged, you have a problem.

    George the First exited the NRA over the "Jack Booted Thugs" comment. When these comments and sentiments — not to mention "black helicopters" conspiracies — are espoused by more and more members of the party, you have a problem.

    We're all on the same page regarding the over reach of such organisations like NSA, DHS and TSA. But it's nutcases on the conservative (with help from cowards on the Left) side who bring these changes in, but it's those on the Right who go "bunker" on us. Thus creating a self fulfilling prophecy as to why we need more of this crap.

    I'm happy with the counterpoint that a Conservative party must offer to the discourse. But we need to purge the crazy. I'm happy to vociferously disagree with someone, I might learn something, but how can we have that discussion if the other person just might pull out a gun and shoot me. It's one thing to disagree over certain aspects of how a government should run, but this is just a new level of crazy.

  25. Bernard Says:

    the intense dislike by Conservatives and active use of any means to get the other is mostly what i dislike about Conservatives, aka Republicans today.

    with such an attitude towards teh other, BB's inferences about the left side of the equation, just shows me how much or little the "other" matters to people like BB. that is what frightens me and as a result i find such offense in such a "my way or the highway" thinking. not sure of other avenues to go, just find this "exclusivity" about the "right" way to live is Big BRother NSA totalitarian thinking BB infers about the left. that i see BB acting out and being part of.

    that is frightening, this "my way or the Highway" condemnation. and that is why we have government to stop the infringement of ideas upon one another.
    otherwise, we descend into the mealstrom we see in America today.

  26. bb in GA Says:

    Major/Bernard/ et al…

    I laid out the two extreme political outcomes I see as possible/probable, one Right Wing and one Left. I believe that the end result will be Corporatist/Fascist no matter what color the flag is, so why I am I getting a raft of sneering crap from y'all? Typical…

    I don't care about the 'other' because I 'prophesy' things that you disagree with?


  27. ConcernedCitizen Says:


    I think the problem most people have with your Leftist "extreme political outcome" is that it doesn't take into account pre-existing economic circumstances. I mean, hell, the Cuban revolution of 1954 is probably considered a success by most Cubans. Before that the country was basically a giant sugar plantation controlled by foreign (read: American) interests.

  28. Coises Says:

    The entire basis for libertarian ideology is selfishness and the notion that the individual is more important than the group.
    the philosophy prof I was taking at the time said that he would always ask the libertarians he met, why should he buy into their ideology. Well, they'd say, if everybody believed and acted this way, we'd all be better off. Yeah, my prof said, but if I'm a libertarian then by definition I do not care if other people are better off.


    It's rather sad if a professor of philosophy has no better understanding of libertarianism than that. A few minutes with Wikipedia would leave anyone better informed.

    Not that that's the only problem with his remark. Even the strain of libertarianism he appears to think defines the whole understands that preservation of liberty is a problem of collective action. By the most cold-hearted calculus, a libertarian defends the freedom of others because that is the only hope of getting them to help to defend his own.

    — a libertarian socialist

  29. Major Kong Says:

    I'm just sayin' there ought to be some sort of reverse-Godwin for when someone brings up Che or Castro (or Mao or that other fella that had the big mustache).

  30. Monkey Business Says:

    We need the political equivalent of a cleansing forest fire in this country. The forest floor is choked with overgrown foliage. It's time to burn it down and use the nutrients to create something new, and hopefully better.

  31. Sarah Says:

    I don't know how much of this I will live to see because of my age (Which makes many of y'all Happy Happy Happy – to quote Phil Robertson)

    Certainly not me. I want you to live to a ripe old age.

  32. Sarah Says:

    Even the strain of libertarianism he appears to think defines the whole understands that preservation of liberty is a problem of collective action.

    Collective action should be followed with collective benefits. Return on investment and all that. After all, if you're asking me to support libertarianism, you are at the very least asking me to cast my ballot–my one opportunity to make my voice heard for effective change in my government–for your candidate. The problem with this is that libertarianism appears to provide the lion's share of its benefits to white dudes. As a non-white and a non-dude, I would be excluded from that.

    By the most cold-hearted calculus, a libertarian defends the freedom of others because that is the only hope of getting them to help to defend his own.

    Yes, well. What, exactly, is freedom? Do you think a hotel owner should be able to deny a room to non-whites? Because that was legal at one time and may be again one day if this line of thinking gets off the ground.

    What about women? Do you think an employer should be able to tell his female employees that they won't be able to get contraception with their group health insurance coverage? It is amusing to me to hear libertarians complain about the poor business owners being forced to "pay for" things that go against their religious beliefs–never mind that these benefits that are consideration as part of a contractual employer-employee relationship. If the employee elects to use her coverage to get contraception, she already paid for that coverage with her labor. Telling her that she can't use her coverage to get contraception or whatever else it is that an employer finds objectionable according to his personal religious beliefs is therefore no different than telling her she can't pay for contraception out of her own pocket using the money from her paycheck.