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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Conservatives and Cronyism

As a follow-on to Gov. Vilsack’s comments about conservative incompetence in governance, I highly recommend Noam Scheiber’s latest TRB column in The New Republic. Noam presents a general theory of the difference between “normal” cronyism and the sort of extended, exponential cronyism that’s often found in conservative administrations, where you don’t just hire your friends, but your friends are allowed to hire their friends, ad infinitum.Like Tom Vilsack, Noam Scheiber thinks conservative hostility to government’s legitimate purposes has consequences for how competently government is run:

If you happen to think bureaucracies are structurally incapable of improving people’s lives, and if you have contempt for the kinds of people who reside in them, then you have two choices: You can either slash the bureaucracy and refund taxpayer’s money, or you can reconcile yourself to the existence of bureaucracy and run it as a patronage operation.

It’s pretty clear which fork in the road the Bush administration has taken. Yes, they’ve rebated some well-heeled taxpayers’ money, but have actually increased spending at a remarkable pace. But in the end, all those Treasury notes the Chinese are buying are essentially financing a patronage operation of epic proportions.

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