I Just Finished – The Free Thoughts Podcast – Washington’s Five Tricks

So this is a bit political, though not “I hate the giant orange / I hate the scary hag” political. I listen to this podcast regularly. It’s produced by libertarianism.org and the Cato Institute, and I always find it informative and thought-provoking. I don’t always agree with everything I hear, which is a good thing, but, when I listen, I feel I’m listening to highly intelligent, highly educated people talking about things that actually matter. And by “things that actually matter” I mean pretty much nothing that most people are bringing into current political discourse. Russian collusion? Yeah, I believe it may have happened. I also believe it, or things like it, have been happening for a long time. If they upset you, stop voting for candidates who are involved with them.

Most people won’t do that. So they’ve chosen to live with this idiocy, and I’m not really interested in hearing them wallow in it.

I am interested in hearing political and economic scholars talk about thing changes we could make that might actually effect change in America, or about the causes that brought about the effects that make headlines.

This podcast’s recent “North Korea 101” segment was a particular eye-opener. And a lot of the guests on the ‘casts—nearly all—have written books on the subject they’re speaking on. I’ve read several of those books as a result of this podcasts, and I have yet to be disappointed. I prefer to receive my information on political issues via books where possible,  via several newspapers where not, and almost never via the shrill hysteria of TV news.

The episode in question here was also an eye-opener. It’s called “Washington’s Five Tricks,” and it’s about the tricks our leaders use to pull the wool over our eyes and makes us believe that they’re governing efficiently, when, in fact, they’re not. These tricks also manage to make us believe that, when government does something we don’t like, it’s “the other guy’s” fault.

David Schoenbrod, author of DC Confidential: Inside the Five Tricks of Washington, is the guest. He details tricks like “the money trick” in which government offers a benefit but hides the long term costs of that benefit; “the debt guarantee trick,” in which government promises to protect our savings accounts, but, unbeknownst to us, also protects the risky investments of big banks and creates the whole “too big to fail” scenario. There’s also “the federal mandate trick,” where Congress votes to mandate a result, but cleverly sits out voting on the methods that bring about that result, the similar “regulation trick,” where Congress gets credit for saying we have a right to clean air, but the EPA gets the blame for trying to enforce that right, and, finally, “the war trick.” This one is especially nasty. Congress reserves the right to authorize wars, but still funds wars they don’t authorize. And Schoenbrod doesn’t only identify problems, he proposes solutions that we could use to make our government more accountable.

I would recommend that anyone who cares about our system of government—and not just which asshole is in charge of it at any given moment—listen to this podcast at the very least, and consider reading some of the books recommended. I’d like to especially say, to my friends who hate Donald Trump, that they should remember that he said he loves nothing so much as an uninformed voter. Well, now, you don’t want the Donald to love you, do you?

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