Rather than bemoan the lack of excitement and profound political change in our incredibly affluent societies, why not ask: With so much to lose, why do we so often actually vote for a fresh face, a risky outsider?
Part of the reason may be that it actually doesn’t feel that dangerous; we know that there is a strong political establishment waiting in Washington or Ottawa to help Reagan, Carter, Mulroney, Harper, and Obama settle in—an establishment that is damned during elections and expected to maintain an even keel the rest of the time.
Faux or not, today’s populism sounds sincere and, so, it’s refreshing to read Josh Burro’s blog "In Defense of the Establishment.”
"To some extent, though, I think this just reflects the indispensability of the Washington Establishment, which is a lot better than people like to say it is. While it contains a lot of errors, the Washington Consensus is right more often than it is wrong. Even more importantly, critiques of the Washington Consensus are wrong more often than they are right—meaning that taking Washington Establishment down a peg will tend to do more harm than good. "
Burro elaborates forcefully:
"There are numerous policy areas where the hegemony of the Washington Establishment is the only thing saving America from popular but terrible ideas—trade, immigration, foreign aid. But perhaps the best example is TARP. This is a program that looks better every day, having prevented an acute collapse of the financial at very little cost. But in the popular mythology, TARP was a grievous and expensive error that created the Too Big To Fail concept, rather than simply recognizing its existence.
"The populist view of TARP as one of the largest errors of 2008 rather than an example of policy success makes believe a weakening of the establishment will throw out the baby and keep the bathwater. It’s much safer to try to improve the Washington Consensus than to unleash the public on the levers of power. "
Remember before the 2008 election, in the midst of the financial crisis, when Wall Street’s Larry Summers was an asset to the Obama campaign? When showing off the old hands was good politics?