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November 26, 2008



What does that mean? I'm not a New Yorker, so I don't have any idea how Bloomberg has changed over time. I never liked him from the moment I heard of the trans-fat ban. Give me unhealthy food or give me death!

Mencius Moldbug preaches the irrelevance of political appointees to heads of bureaucracies. I don't really take that seriously and more often argue as if the official head was something of a synechdoce for their organization, but going by James Q. Wilson again, a new departmental Secretary can have great difficulty changing things from the "bureaucratic culture" that generally dates back to the department's founding.

Hopefully Anonymous

TGGP, it's a typo. They pop up in your writing too. ;) I don't have the time/inclination to go back and look, but I probably meant "enabled".

There's a bunch of typos in that post, I'll correct them when I find the time.


I was actually thinking you meant something like the opposite of "enabled". In what way has he been enabled in an undesirable way?

Bruce Bueno de Mesquita seems like a pretty political scientist, and he thinks term-limits are a terrible idea (not that he thinks democracy produces great incentives in general). I was once strongly in favor of term-limits, but later I decided that I was just expressing a stick-it-to-'em populism without considering what possible consequences could result.

I agree that government pay for high positions is way too low. I think I quoted de Tocqueville before on why that is in a democracy. It's also interesting that American politicians are bribed with much lower amounts than in many poorer countries. This was noted recently in the Exile, and in Edwart Luttwak's (very enjoyable) Coup Detat.

Hopefully Anonymous

Yeah, I've been thinking that my term limit position is also an empirical question.

I'm skeptical they're a bad idea (I recall that the standard argument is that lobbyists rule when politicans never develop experience) very, very skeptical.

One reason I like them is that they open up more space for people to be big city mayors, county executives, and governors when they're young, so that the best talent can have good executive experience on the way up to becoming president.

Position and power consolidation seems to me to be a real threat to a robust technocracy. Especially because if the best people get the jobs at a technocratic inception, it may be hard for the rest of us dummies to dislodge them, and they'll have an advantage against younger generation challengers due to incumbancy rather than talent.

For example, imagine if we had 500 fixed slots to be an entreprenuer in the USA, and the facebook founders had to battle the seniority of Bill Gates and Larry Ellison for the opportunity to start their own enterprise.

I think that's what happens to legislative and administrative talent in the context of political machines and the absence of term limits (regional machines and incumbents tend to grow into each other, like Chicago's Mayor Daley).


It seems to me that the fixed slots is the real issue there.

Bueno de Mesquita doesn't think term-limits are bad because of lobbyists. He just thinks that politicians that seemed like they had integrity (such as John Addams) will behave badly when there is no cost do doing so. He's very cynical (perhaps the most cynical I've come across among academics) when it comes to politics. John Lott tries to attack such cynicism in his Freedomnomics, including when it comes to politicians so he emphasized the continuity of their behavior through their last term regardless of whether they'd announced their retirement or not. He's more interested in legislators and their relationship with lobbyists, while Bueno de Mesquita was discussing executives.

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