Monday, January 16, 2012

What they talk about in those "Quiet Rooms"

It looks like we're going to have our debate about the role of government, even if Romney is the GOP candidate rather than Paul. And that debate has already started in the Republcan Primaries, thanks to the populist attack adds by Gingrich and Perry, which point out that Romney made his money at Bain Capital by taking over companies, laying off workers, and selling at a profit. These are normal activities in a free market (notice that Ron Paul defends Romney), as are more popular things like business startups. You can certainly make a case that good can come from the sort of thing Romney did, and you can even support the idea that this function is a necessary part of the market. But what about those workers who lost their jobs? That's the problem, and the fact that Gingrich and Perry think they can get an advantage by pointing this out means that even Republican voters agree.

Solutions could be proposed for this problem: Maybe you could regulate hostile takeovers, or maybe increase the safety net benefits perhaps focusing on retraining for the unemployed workers while providing them with living expenses. These are the sort of things they talk about in Romney's "Quiet Rooms". But why do they talk about it at all? Isn't this something you would expect to be the province of Democrats, not Republicans? Republicans know as well as anybody that you can't govern without the consent of the governed, and you can't allow outcomes like large numbers of displaced workers. The market solution for this may be that those workers are unemployed or under-employed for the rest of their working lives, and this is not socially or politically acceptable.

Of course, approaches like the ones above are anti-free market and create unintended consequences that we may not like. But we don't like seeing a bunch of people lose their jobs either, even if we're just looking at the opinions of Republican voters. That's why we need to have this debate.

The plans that come out of the quiet rooms are likely to be more acceptable to the business/corporate lobby than those that come from a popular political campaign.

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