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How Should We Define the Success of a Government?

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There’s been much written on political philosophy over the past few months, and I must admit that reading it is a bit of a slog. Call me a political simpleton if you will, but the more I read, the more I believe that when it comes to deciding which political system is best, the most important factor should be, must be, the results that particular system has shown in the past. All other factors and considerations concerning a particular political system must be secondary to the sustained results that political system has shown.

So, what do we hear about America’s particular political system, socialized democracy? “The New Deal was a failure!” Never mind that for more than sixty years our economy was the envy of the planet and in many ways still is. Sure, there were ups and downs along the way, some bigger than others, but from the implementation of the New Deal to the repeal of Glass-Steagal, the strength of our economy was never truly threatened.

“The Great Society was a colossal failure!” Never mind that the statistics clearly show that the poverty rate was cut in half in the decade following LBJ’s proudest achievement, and even now in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the poverty rate is still significantly lower than before the Great Society, as pointed out to Bill O’Reilly, and as is clearly shown in this chart.

In all America’s history, the data make it obvious that the two programs above benefited more Americans to a greater extent than anything our government has done since Lincoln freed the slaves. Yet a substantial portion of conservative politicians and pundits vociferously claim that these two programs were attacks on the American way of life and assaults on freedom/democracy/free enterprise. So how do we define whether a government is good for its people?

I say that the higher the standard of living of the greater percentage of its population, and the greater the degree of the sustainability of said standard, the more successful the government. After all, what is the purpose of government? Many would cynically claim that a government is nothing more than power-hungry people wanting to exert authority over other people, and there are many, many examples where such is indeed the truth. But this is not true in all cases; indeed, in most cases in democratic nations, governments are comprised of people (some of whom are power-hungry) who are trying to do what they really think is best. I suspect that those who would claim otherwise, who try to tell us that all politicians are corrupt and/or power-hungry, do not realize that such a definition would include every president we’ve had; even including Washington and Lincoln and every one of America’s Founding Fathers. To be sure, some (perhaps even most) were corrupt at least to some extent. But being ethically pure doesn’t mean that one governs well (Adolf Hitler), nor does being somewhat corrupt mean that one cannot govern well (Winston Churchill).

But back to the subject of how to determine the success of a government. By the definition I suggest above, the best governments are the ones that benefit the most to the greatest degree for the longest periods of time. How shall we measure such success? I would suggest looking at the poverty rate and at the United Nations’ measure, the Human Development Index. These clearly show that the most successful nations are in Europe, America, most of the present and former British Commonwealth nations, Japan, and South Korea. Those who are interested in history will also note that most of these nations have been the most politically stable nations, some even for centuries.

What do these nations have in common? They are all democracies (though of many different types), and they are all socialized to varying degrees. This doesn’t automatically mean that these nations are perfect (they’re not) or that few if any people are poor or hungry (many still are), or that they are where any one person would prefer or be best suited to live. All that such metrics mean is that these nations have done the best for their populations to the greatest degree for the longest period of time.

Now there are some readers who will immediately call me a statist for implying that governments are necessary and often good for the people. So be it; if it makes me a statist to agree with Spock when he said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”, then call me a statist.  But one must note that the pluralist statism (read: socialist democracy) that I espouse is in no way related to totalitarianism and nazism, for such are much more closely related to right-wing autoritarianism particularly when it comes to cultural issues. Furthermore, I’ve pointed out countless times my Goldilocks philosophy: moderation in all things. Too much or too little of any one thing, whether it’s freedom or government or money or power or even ice cream, is good for no one. Those who use this or that example to make sweeping claims that there is too much government fall afoul of my other tenet of human sociology: the greater the population of a society and the greater its level of technology, the greater the degree of regulation and the size of the government that will be necessary to maintain order in that society.

These are big picture concepts. Some will say, “What about the individual? What’s good for the nation isn’t necessarily good for me!” Such is the danger of the tyranny of the minority, where one or a few are able to prevent the majority from getting done that which is necessary for the nation as a whole. To be sure, there are many times when the rights of the minority must trump the desires of the majority, the Civil Rights struggle and today’s continuing battle for equal rights for LGBT’s are perhaps the best examples of such. But in most cases it is not good for the nation, as we can see by the ongoing effects of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court.

But that’s the key point! Without a strong central government, able to impose its will when necessary upon the states, there would have been little chance even to the present day that several states in the South would have passed civil rights legislation on their own.

In the debate between statists and individualists (for lack of better descriptions), perhaps that’s the most salient point: when the greatest good is done for the greatest number of people for the longest period of time, it cannot be said that individual rights suffered. Why? Because those who benefited are not a faceless majority, but a great group of individuals, people with dreams and desires and freedoms of their own.

More than any other form of government in human history, America and the other socialized democracies of the world have done quite well for the greatest percentage of the individuals in their borders, and have done so for the longest period of time. That tells me that as messy and as frustrating as socialized democracy can be, we’re doing something right. For every single deadbeat who’s taking unfair advantage of the taxpayer, there are dozens, scores, perhaps even hundreds, who use government assistance as it’s intended: as a hand up out of poverty. And as the references I gave above clearly show, all in all we’re doing pretty well.  It is a grave error to do that which makes more difficult the success of the scores or hundreds just to prevent the one from taking unfair advantage of the system.

Those who decry socialized democracy, who call it tyranny and totalitarianism, who compare it to communism and claim it’s not free at all, perhaps need to decide what it is that they really want.  Do they want to live where the greatest number of people have a real chance at living the middle-class dream?  Or do they want to live in a more Darwinian setting where those who are most skilled (and ruthless) enjoy the greatest level of success and where those who aren’t so skilled (or who weren’t born rich) are not destined for such success and live in poverty for the rest of their lives with no real hope of a way out?  

It would be wise to remember something that Winston Churchill said in 1947:  “Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”  As an example, when Churchill said this, socialized medicine had already been the law of the land for all male workers in England for thirty-six years.  One year later it was extended to all British citizens.  As has been the experience of most of the First World democracies with socialized medicine, while the people as a whole are a little less free in that they have to pay a bit more in taxes to support the health system, many, many people are a lot freer than they would be otherwise.  Why?  Because they’re alive and breathing since they had access to health care that they could not have afforded on their own.  The proof lay in the generally significantly-higher life expectancies of those populations that live in nations with socialized health care.

Mick Jagger said it best, “You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you might find, you get what you need,” meaning (in the context of this article) you can’t have all the freedom you want, but in most cases you already have all the freedom you really need.  Or, to paraphrase an old Navy saying, “America ain’t Burger King, you can’t always have it your way!” And that’s a good thing.

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About Glenn Contrarian

White. Male. Raised in the deepest of the Deep South. Retired Navy. Strong Christian. Proud Liberal. Thus, Contrarian!
  • John Lake

    Glenn is still out there with a whole lot to say. He is waxing, albeit, quite optimistic. I like the line, “The greater the population of a society and the greater its level of technology, the greater the degree of regulation and the size of the government that will be necessary to maintain order in that society.”

  • Dr Dreadful

    Pretty good summing up there, Glenn.

    On the subject of civil rights, a small government libertarian would probably tell you that the southern states would have come around in the end and passed legislation on their own initiative, since the racist laws and institutions in place in those states would eventually have led to the loss of most of the (black) workforce as it emigrated north in search of less oppressive places to live, and subsequent economic meltdown.

    A guarantee of equal civil rights for all would have been the only way to entice those workers to move back to the South.

    Of course, this theory does nothing to explain why the remaining blacks in the South should have had to put up with being second-class citizens for all the decades it would have taken. Nor does it allow for the possibility that many southern states would have opened their doors to “guest” workers from Mexico and the Caribbean, and proceeded to pay them a pittance, sooner than give rights to negroes. But there it is.

  • Igor

    If I were a Christian I’d say that a society is judged by how well it does for the lowest of it’s people: the poor, the disabled, the damaged, the abused, the children, the old, the lame, etc. It’s the Jesus test.

    Good thing I’m not a Christian or I’d perish from grieving for this society.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Igor –

    In my opinion, most of those who claim be ‘Christian’ are anything but…and when it comes to the article, Jesus had no problem with government – He had no problem even with taxes.

    Most ‘Christians’ even revile the name of Pontius Pilate – but for the life of me, I don’t see anything he did that was truly sinful. He was obeying the law of the land that applied to him, declared that Jesus was apparently innocent, and followed the will of the people when they cried out for Jesus’ death. But why did he do so? It’s pretty obvious that he did so to maintain order and prevent rioting.

  • Dr Joseph S Maresca

    I don’t mind necessary government. VP Al Gore tried to consolidate government processing with some success.

    Pres. George Bush increased the role of government with dual wars and the Homeland Security.

    People object to the interference of government at the local level as General and Pres. Eisenhower warned against. We need right sized government with as little interference as possible in how people live and work.

    Government itself is not coming free of charge. The alternative to some government spending could be employing people in the private sector.

    Lobbying is another problem area where government itself is taken hostage. Services end up costing more and ideas which should prevail- do not do so. Oftentimes, the people have absolutely no idea of the better alternatives because these are screened out by professional lobbies and interest groups of every kind. Thankfully, the internet can change the adverse power calculus.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Dr Maresca, are you aware that you do not have to hit the Return key when your cursor reaches the edge of the comments box?

    Unlike with a typewriter, your computer will wrap around to a new line automatically.

    I apologize if I’m stating the obvious, but I can’t otherwise account for the unedited appearance of most of your comments.

  • Cannonshop

    Glenn, looking straight at your title, I can nail what the difference is…

    A successful government doesn’t need to run advertisements on the radio assuring citizens that the Civil Service isn’t the enemy.

    This is, after all, the same Federal Government that recently decided that food, fuel, and housing are too volatile to be counted in “cost of living” calculations, but that i-pods, Internet connections, and other optional crap is just fine.

    The same federal government that not only can’t balance its books year to year, but is borrowing money to increase the amount it can borrow (“Debt Ceiling”) to pay for all those wonderful programmes you’ve listed in your article, because the actual ECONOMY can’t pay for ’em any other way.

    It’s the same Government that has had to devalue the currency to the point they’re devaluing what it’s MADE OUT OF. when a zinc-sandwich penny costs 3c to make, there’s a problem with the value of your money, Glenn. As for your poverty stat, did you factor in currency devaluation, or did you just go with handy quantitative amounts? PURCHASING POWER determines poverty, Glenn-you’re just as poor with a thousand dollars that are worth what used to be a hundered, as you were when you had a hundered dollars that were actually worht a hundered dollars.

    So, no, I don’t buy your product of bottomless government, Glenn, Statists don’t ever have a limit on how far, or how much, or what kind of future burdens they’ll impose on others, to get the highlife lifestyle they feel they are entitled to-even if it means hiding real poverty behind a numbers game and pretending things are better than they really are.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Cannonshop –

    A successful government doesn’t need to run advertisements on the radio assuring citizens that the Civil Service isn’t the enemy.

    But it’s okay for a political party and a major media outlet to run ads saying that the Civil Service IS the enemy?

    One of the biggest misconceptions of the Republican party, Cannonshop, is that government should be run like a business – and nothing could be further from the truth. Government is not run to make a profit – government is run to govern the people, to protect their lives and property and livelihoods.

    Do you remember that at the end of the Clinton administration, we were on track to pay off our ENTIRE national debt by this year? But thanks to Dubya, between two wars (one of which was strictly illegal), a huge giveaway to Big Pharma, and a HUGE tax cut (mostly for the wealthy), our surplus that was supposed to pay off our debt…went *poof*.

    Cannonshop, we CAN pay off the national debt – but in order to do so, we have to have (1) a tax policy sensible enough to get rid of the deficit, and (2) an administration that doesn’t throw money at wars and industry and the rich who do NOT need it, but instead use the money to build up the middle class and to bring people out of poverty…which is EXACTLY what the Great Society was all about – remember, the poverty rate was cut in half in the years after the Great Society was implemented.

    Call it government giveaways if you like – but the rich do NOT need the money, but the middle- and lower-classes DO need the jobs, even if they’re taxpayer-funded government jobs…VERY FEW of which are the waste of time that the Republican party would tell you they are.

  • Igor

    We need to lapse the old 2001 Bush tax giveaways, which didn’t do any good anyway.

    We need to cut the defense budget in half and buy a few thousand predators. All the old boats are out-of-date and airplanes are only good to send to Israel as castoffs.

  • Igor

    How should we define the success of an economy?

    Well, to begin with one should keep things that worked, like capitalism to make lightbulbs and run department stores, and cast off things that didn’t work, like capitalism for healthcare, military, roads, etc.

    Let’s face it, the big broad concerns of government (military, environment, healthcare, etc.) are too important to be left to the vagaries of capitalism, which monopolizes any such endeavor easily and corrupts it, and then drives prices through the ceiling with it’s monopolies.

  • Clavos

    Let’s face it, the big broad concerns of government (military, environment, healthcare, etc.) are too important to be left to the vagaries of capitalism…

    Instead, we leave them up to the corruption and ineptitude of government, which explains why we have a crumbling infrastructure and horrendous school systems which often don’t even teach reading and writing, let alone science and math or foreign languages.

    And now, based on how successfully our government runs everything else, liberals want it to run the medical system too.

    I can just hear the physicians working under work rules similar to those of the USPS, when, in mid heart transplant the cardiac surgeon says, “Oh my! My eight hours are up, I’m outta here!”

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Instead, we leave them up to the corruption and ineptitude of government, which explains why we have a crumbling infrastructure and horrendous school systems which often don’t even teach reading and writing, let alone science and math or foreign languages.

    That’s the same old conservative line – “slice-and-dice the school budgets, and the horrendous school systems will magically get better!”

    “slice-and-dice the transportation budget, and all of a sudden our transportation infrastructure will magically get better!”

    “slice-and-dice funding for maintenance for government buildings, and their condition will magically get better!”

    What today’s Republicans (unlike the Republicans of bygone generations) do not realize is that you get what you pay for. You want government to work well – but you’re not willing to pay the taxes necessary to get that level of service. “Government is broken – elect us and we’ll prove it to you by making damned sure it stays broken!”


    And speaking of the USPS, Clavos, if it weren’t for the pension requirements that Congress pushed on the USPS, did you know they’d be showing a profit today? Here’s some edjimication for you about the USPS, BY FAR the world’s most efficient postal system (they deliver 268,894 letters per year per employee), so you can learn exactly why the USPS is still losing money:

    Despite the cries of bankruptcy from right wing politicians, the US Postal Service earned a profit of $112 million from its operations in October, despite a 5% drop in revenue, and a 10% drop in total mail volume compared with October 2010.

    Unfortunately for postal workers and their customers, however, the accounting gimmicks enacted into law by Congress and the Bush Administration in 2006 require that the USPS hand that profit over to the Treasury. Not only that, but the USPS is required to borrow another $350 million from the Treasury, so that money can also be handed back to the Treasury for the so-called “trust fund” for potential future retiree health benefits.

    The end result of all of this politically inspired money shuffling is that the postal service is forced to book a net loss of $139 million. From the politician’s point of view, it’s a win-win situation- each month, the gimmickry shifts another half billion dollars of the national debt “off budget”, to the USPS; and it matches the story people like Darrell Issa and Dennis Ross like to tell about bloated bureaucracies and overpaid workers.

    We just can’t have a unionized government run operation making a profit, can we?

    Clavos, the REASON why the USPS is losing money isn’t because of inefficiency – they are the world’s MOST efficient – but because a Republican Congress (with support from a lot of Dems who didn’t see where it was going) gave them a poison pill of a pension system, one that is breaking the USPS and its union.

    THAT, sir, is the reason why the USPS loses money.

  • Clavos


    Your “response” had virtually no bearing whatever on my comment. I never mentioned “slice-and-dice.” I have no idea what you’re talking about.

    As to the USPS and its unions. I worked there. I know first hand how inefficient and featherbedded that “organization” is.

    And the excuse about the pensions is bogus. The liability exists because for decades, first the Post Office “management”, then the USPS “managers’ allowed themselves to be sodomized by the unions, which are among the most arrogant and powerful such entities in the country. Again, I know that from first hand experience.

  • Cannonshop

    #9 Igor, Government Giveaways are entirely a STATIST entity-from no-bid contracts, to mandating economic activity occur, to socialism for the very rich, to a tax system so complex those tasked to enforce it don’t even have a working understanding OF it, to an overburden of obselete laws, to agencies that don’t perform the function for which they were created, and the contractors that feed off of all of this-it’s all Statist, Igor. Every scrap from Enron to Halliburton to Solyndra and similar big scandals, all the way down to the fifty thousand dollar claw hammer and 125k toilet seats, to the John P. Murtha Airport in Pennsylvania (rated for shuttle landings, has six flights a day maximum!)

    Excessive Statism BREEDS Corporatism-and reinforces it, protects it, and advances it at the cost of the citizens it is supposed to be serving.

    You can’t run Government like a business, but you can damn sure run it like a household-if your household were in the proportional debt of Uncle Sam, you’d be living in a cardboard box under the overpass-because you, unlike Uncle Sam, can’t just print more money to pretend to cover it, passing the losses on to the next generation.

    Eventually, governments ALSO lose that ability-look at Zimbabwe, or any of a hundered other hellholes with worthless currency, dependent on foreign aid to stay in some kind of shaky operational condition.

    there is only so far you can redistribute from a frankly dwindling pool of wealth production, and that shortens as you expand the financial committments. Right now, I work at the last big EXPORTER of goods in the U.S.-Goods, Igor, not Jobs.

    And what’ve we got for it? Kids are graduating from schools unable to read or do basic math, ignorant of history, languages, science-the intellectual capital necessary to recover or maintain enough production to pay for what Statists want Government to DO. The bottomless foreign wars are just aggravating factors, the real problem is, Government doesn’t do much of anything well-we have prisons that are essentially training grounds for a permanent criminal underclass, and they’re jammed to the rafters and beyond, we have a “National Security” apparatus that is more worried about some non-violent protesters, than they are about hostile foreign nationals already inside our borders, we have an immigration policy that is frankly insane and utterly unenforceable, we have, in short, a lot of failure, very little success, and a huge outlay of resources we don’t even HAVE to lay out propping up a system that is dysfunctional and growing moreso every day.

    Respect for the Law is declining, we elect Presidents based on the same criteria as “American Idol” (and choose Presidential Candidates the SAME WAY…look at Santorum, Gingrich, etc.)

    WE’ve been cutting our own throats for THREE generations now. IT’s GOING to catch up with us, maybe you’ll be lucky enough to die of old age first, but what about the ones that come after you? Do you even give a shit?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Instead, we leave them up to the corruption and ineptitude of government, which explains why we have a crumbling infrastructure and horrendous school systems which often don’t even teach reading and writing, let alone science and math or foreign languages.

    And what has been the conservative reaction to the problems we face with schools and infrastructure? “Slice-and-dice”. That’s why I went on my ‘slice-and-dice’ tirade.

    And if you’ll recall, I worked for the USPS too – and if the USPS is SO terrible, then please tell us why it is that the USPS is the MOST EFFICIENT postal service on the planet, AND why it is that except for the mandatory payments pushed on them by Congress, they would be making a profit even today? That’s what the references I gave clearly show.

    P.S. I’d LOVE to see you show how any other organization delivers over 200,000 of ANY physical product per employee per year! I don’t think even McDonald’s can make that claim!

  • Clavos

    please tell us why it is that the USPS is the MOST EFFICIENT postal service on the planet,

    Questionable. Australia? The UK? Deutsche Bundesposte? Japan? Canada? etc., etc.

    If your criterion is quantity it’s a specious point; most of the 200K you cite above is Presorted Standard (i.e., “junk mail”), which is sorted and banded by the senders and is then carried to its destination PO by contractors, chief among them UPS and FedEx, both of whom are much more efficient than the USPS, because and they make money! The USPS only carries it the “last mile.”

    The only reason the USPS hasn’t yet lost the First Class franchise is they are protected by law; no other carrier can carry it; if there were real competition for First Class, the USPS would lose — quickly.

  • Igor

    Glenn is absolutely right about USPS: the only reason they have any financial problem is because the Bush/Republican cabal in 2006 forced a 10-year plan to fund the retirement plan fully. This was just designed to make the USPS look bad.

    NO ONE has a fully funded retirement plan. No company has a fully funded retirement plan. Look at your own retirement plan wherever you work and ask the administrators if it is fully funded.

    YOUR company doesn’t have a fully funded retirement plan (unless you are one of the very top executives).

    In fact, your automobile insurance is NOT fully funded. If you have a loss, the insurance company will use funds from current revenues. There is NO pre-funded money. The only slack in auto insurance companies is a slush fund for financial exigencies, not for product payoffs.

    The same is true of your house insurance. No payoffs are pre-funded. If there’s a massive flood or fire in your neighborhood the insurance company can simply declare bankruptcy and not pay off.

    But , of course, that doesn’t stop crooked rightists from proclaiming that only the USPS and SSA have an unfunded liability. And, at that, the USPS unfunded fraction, just like the SSA unfunded fraction, is small compared to the pre-funded part, because both are controlled by government regulations, whereas most PRIVATE insurance funds are not.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    Do you realize how many assumptions are in your #16? You assume that other nations don’t have anything like a ‘Presorted Standard’. You assume that private companies are just a-hankering to do first-class mail (they aren’t), and that they could do it anywhere as close to as cheaply as the USPS does it (they can’t), at the same level of mandated service that the USPS provides (they can’t).

    Furthermore, exactly how workable would it be for a private company to operate on the SAME mandate that the USPS is required by law to provide, namely to be able to deliver to every single address in the nation six days a week (or is it five now, thanks to the Bush-admin-manufactured budgetary problems the USPS has?)…even if those addresses are out in the boonies and the mail those addresses receive are nowhere near valuable enough to pay for the expense of the delivery?

    It’s a dream world, a fantasy that you’re living in if you think that FedEx or UPS or anyone else has the wherewithal to do that as cheaply as the USPS already does it. The cost of first-class mail would skyrocket…and so would the cost of the presorted standard upon which many businesses depend!

    That last is what neither you nor the Republican party as a whole is not getting – the USPS is a value-added service – the ability of the retirees (who don’t like direct deposit) to get their checks, the increase in business of J.C. Penney, Macy’s, Harry & David, and all the tens of thousands of other businesses that advertise through the mail – do you really think it would HELP their business if they all of a sudden had to pay three or four times the price for presorted standard?

    But it’s as if all you can see is the initial price of the USPS, and you think that the money is all completely wasted. But it’s NOT.

    The USPS is by far the most efficient postal service in the world…and that presorted standard mail counts just as much and is just as important, because it’s that presorted standard that’s helping make our business sector run.

    As a business person, Clavos, you should understand all that instinctively.

  • Igor

    Bigger government is inevitable. As a country grows in population and commerce it is inevitable that management overhead increases (it’s also true in every business).

    And it’s NOT just a linear increase. It’s greater than linear. Both mathematical theory and empiricism show that management burden must increase logarthmically. Thus, the very fact of growth commits you to bigger government.

    It’s just a question of who has the power. Do you want the power in the hands of a few people who will do anything to enrich themselves at the expense of others? Or do you want power in the hands of a broad electorate?

    You get to choose. The rest is hot air.

  • Clavos

    Do you want the power in the hands of a few people who will do anything to enrich themselves at the expense of others?

    That, Igor, is the very definition of the government we already have — and it’s only going to get worse, unless the nanny staters are stopped.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Oh? Our government right now is concentrating the power into that hands of just a few people who enrich themselves at the expense of others?


    Do you have some kind of facts or figures to back that up? Because I’m having a really hard time trying to think of any government functionaries who became billionaires on government salaries. As far as I can tell, every single billionaire made it in the business world.

    Can you show differently?

    Didn’t think so. Clavos, y’all need to get off the “government is all-evil, all the time” shtick…because government – at least OUR government – is NOT as corrupt as many (or perhaps most) corporations out there (as you should have learned from everything we’ve found out about Goldman Sachs and the Great Recession).

  • Zingzing

    It’s strange how conservative arguments against the current gov’t can be so contradictory. It’s socialist, yet it’s fascist. It’s creating class war against the rich, yet it’s trying to enrich them. It’s incompetent and inefficient, yet it’s totalitarian. Obama has big ears but he won’t listen to me, even though I didn’t vote for him and never would because he doesn’t believe in the things that I do, but he should still do things I agree with because I’m a real American and anyone who doesn’t believe as I do can just leave this land of freedom and liberty.

  • Clavos

    Um, guys, every single member of congress is at least a millionaire, even those who weren’t when they started, and ALL the government power is concentrated in Washington DC, in the hands of Obama, and the congress, all 535 of ’em.

    None of ’em are billionaires, true, but ALL of ’em are richer as a result of being elected, and more importantly (because it’s their real motivation for seeking office) are much more powerful than any private citizen — even the billionaires.

  • Zingzing

    You may be right about many of them, clavos, but that’s a pretty simple and reductive attempt to nail the motivations of 536 individuals and their relationship to power in the us. Do you really think the lowliest member of congress holds more power than the murdochs and soroses of the world?

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos rails against the power-hungry in Congress and thinks that we’re so naive about why they wanted to be elected…

    …but he himself doesn’t seem to see his own naivete when it comes to the much greater degree of corruption in the corporate world. And why is there more corruption in the corporate world? Easy. There isn’t someone from the media watching what Joe CEO does all day long, every day – but there’s ALWAYS someone in the media watching what anyone in the government does, all day long, every day.

  • Clavos

    “After my election I have more flexibility.”

    And the beat goes on…

  • Glenn Contrarian

    That, Clavos, is realpolitik. Do you really think other presidents – and even the best presidents – haven’t had the same choices when running for reelection?

    And do you really think that the corporate world is less corrupt than government?

  • Cannonshop

    #25 Up until recently, Corps that were mismanaged were allowed to fail, now, their brethren and fellow-travellers in Government step in and rescue them-so that their mismanagement might continue uninterrupted.

    Glenn, you seem deliberately, even aggressively ignorant of the intertwined and incestuous relationship between Big Corporation and Big Government-even when a scandal or failure ought to be a wake-up call, you turn your eyes from it.

    Enron’s failure, as much as anything else, came about because of the rejection of the Kyoto Protocols that would have, if adopted, put them as a dominant force in Carbon Trading for North America. The Board at AIG that ran THAT company into the ground is still sitting, collecting their bonuses, and conducting ‘business as usual’.

    Wake up, Big Government only checks Big Business in the fantasy land where they aren’t in bed together, plotting to screw the rest of us without lube.

    In the really-real-world, Big Government and Corporatist Big Business are deeply entwined, essentially shielding one another’s vulnerabilities and advancing one another’s agendas while mock-miming a hostile relationship for the benefit of the gullible.

    The only REAL difference between the Left, and the Right, in this country, is where they SEEK their wealth and power-the Left seeks it in, from, and of government, the right seeks it in the corporate world, but their schooling, backgrounds, and actions are essentially identical, as is their objectives when you get past the cosmetics.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    “Up until recently” meaning the Reagan administration when Chrysler was rescued? And it was a bad thing for people to have manufacturing jobs for the quarter-century since then until Fiat bought them out? Of course they still have jobs, but I guess in Republican World that’s a BAD THING. Actually, to Republicans it IS a bad thing since they’re mostly union jobs.

    Or perhaps “up until recently” refers to when the railroad industry was bailed out in 1970? I suppose that was just setting the railroad industry up for failure…and they’ve been a failed industry for the past 42 years, right? But that’s another BAD THING to Republicans, since they’re mostly union jobs, too.

  • Clavos

    That, Clavos, is realpolitik…

    No, Glenn, that’s anti-democracy arrogance. Essentially, what he was telling Medved was that once he’s reelected, what the people want won’t count since he can’t run again anyways and no longer needs them, so he’s free to play footsie with Putin.

    And if you think he meant anything other than that, Glenn, you’re even more naive than I thought.

  • Igor

    #28-cannon enunciates the well-known history of corrupt cooperation between business and government, but fails to show how reducing government would reduce that. In fact, what we need is to enforce rules and regulations on both corrupt government and corrupt business.

    Surely you don’t maintain that absent Big Government that business would be pure and incorruptible? In fact, history says that unregulated business results in horrendous corruption and abuse.

  • Zingzing

    No, clavos, it’s diplomacy and realizing what is and isn’t possible given the toxic political atmosphere in dc. After the election, stupid shit like working with Russia to find a solution both nations can live with won’t be turned into some sort of red herring. Pardon the pun.

    Everything seems so simple to you. But you’re not so naive, just partisan.

  • Clavos

    No, zing it’s Obama telling the Russians that he’ll cave after the election and give them what they want; he just “needs some space” for now.

  • zingzing

    simple as that, eh, clavos? it’s missile defense shit between the us and russia. what do you want, another cold war? an accommodation needs to be found, but do you really think that now’s the time? russia realizes that any accommodation they request will be denied until after the election. obama realizes he’ll have to reject it or it’ll be used against him. but neither side needs this shit right now. it would be a blow to both sides to try and decide it while there’s an election in the united states.

    reality gets in the way of rhetoric a lot, clavos. the ultimate truth is that obama couldn’t give russia an inch at this point. after the election, a reasonable compromise can be made. the way of the world, etc.

    again, you seem to think this shit is simple. when has shit between the us and russia ever been simple? and why do you think it suddenly is now? don’t tell me you’re going soft in the brain…

  • zingzing

    seriously, clavos, anything obama does seems to turn you into a simpleton. as if politics wasn’t about making deals and working out what’s most expedient… you accuse others of being naive, but then you say the most naive shit sometimes. there’s a real world outside your head, and it’s high time you rejoined it.

  • zingzing

    anyway, unless you want some stupid, rhetoric-driven battle between the us and russia on this, which is something that they clearly can negotiate on (or else said conversation wouldn’t have happened), why would you want obama to push this shit when it’s clearly not the time? fucking stupid, if you ask me.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    what he was telling Medved

    You mean Medvedev, right? Not Michael Medved, I assume. Freud slips again….

    Clavos – I’ve got a challenge for you. You’ve seen the conservative side of the story when it comes to the ballistic missile information exchange between Obama and Medvedev…so how about reading the other side of the story?

  • Cindy


    “what we need is to enforce rules and regulations on both corrupt government and corrupt business”

    I am glad to see someone else noticing that both government and business (as usual) are corrupt. But I am not sure how one goes about creating another power structure to police those two, which in itself would not be corrupt.

    So, my question is twofold: 1) What is the cause of their corruption? 2) Where does the power to enforce rules and regulations on both business and gov’t come from in your proposal?

  • roger nowosielski

    It goes without saying that the supporters of liberal democracies are put in a quandary by such questions and can’t help but resort to circular reasoning by way of coming up with a semblance of what might seem like a respectable answer.

  • Dr Dreadful

    Cindy poses an interesting conundrum.

    But I am not sure how one goes about creating another power structure to police those two

    There is one. It’s called the legal system.

    which in itself would not be corrupt.

    It is corrupt, but it is not absolutely corrupt, and neither are the two estates it polices. Therein lies our hope. Even the mighty who come to perceive themselves as untouchable can be brought down, e.g. Richard Nixon, Ken Lay… Martha Stewart? :-)

    The cause of its corruption is human nature, and the power to enforce rules and regulations comes from the people, who, as I observed, are unfortunately also corrupt.

    Under such circumstances I really can’t see there being much of a deterrent to any of this behaviour, unless we were able to install a computer which would monitor the activities of the legislative, corporate and judicial estates, and remove the voting privileges and stop the salary of any individual it deemed to be acting corruptly: simultaneously transmitting an automatic press release to all registered news agencies explaining why this action was being taken.

  • Dr Dreadful

    News today from the world of corruption: the UK’s Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government plans to introduce legislation allowing law enforcement and intelligence services to monitor all citizens’ phone calls, emails and web activity, both parties having vehemently opposed a similar proposal by the previous Labour government just a few years ago.

    Opposition to the scheme is being led by the admirable Conservative MP David Davis, who seems to be one of the few members of the Commons genuinely deserving of the title “honourable”.

  • Christopher Rose

    Broadly speaking, I think the structures are in place to reduce corruption, particularly in countries that really do separate the three worlds of law, government and capitalism.

    That’s not to say corruption has been eliminated anywhere yet of course. The key thing is the passage of time; as the world gets richer – and it is – and the need for corrupt practices reduces through the combination of increased detection and/or prevention and increased general affluence, corruption reduces.

    The world is clearly less corrupt today than it was yesterday, although equally obviously not as uncorrupt as it will be tomorrow (or the next day!).

  • Igor

    Wall Street corruption is rampant.

    Business Insider

    We Now Know With Near-Certainty That Wall Street Execs Committed Felonies

    Bruce Judson, New Deal 2.0 | Mar. 20, 2012,

    Bankers Are The Enemies Of Capitalism

    It’s now a near certainty that Wall Street executives committed felonies.

    The recently released audits of robo-mortgage activities by the Office of the Inspector General of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) details shocking behavior at the five banks constituting the Federal Housing Administration’s largest mortgage servicers. At Wells Fargo, management quashed a midlevel manager’s study of the foreclosure process as negative results began to emerge, and it gave an individual whose last job had been in a pizza restaurant the title of “vice-president of loan documentation” to facilitate robo-mortgage signing. Bank of America evaluated employees on the volume of foreclosure affidavits produced. JP Morgan Chase gave individuals titles such as “vice-president of Chase Home” where “the titles were given by Chase for the sole purpose of allowing individuals to sign documents and came with no other duties or authority.” Citigroup and Ally similarly engaged in seemingly illegal practices.

    Under federal law, the knowing filing of a false affidavit with the court is a felony offense of perjury, punishable by a prison term of up to five years….

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Chris –

    The world is clearly less corrupt today than it was yesterday, although equally obviously not as uncorrupt as it will be tomorrow (or the next day!).

    Quoted for truth.

  • Igor

    #33-Clavos longs for the simple dunderhead days of GW Bush.

    “No, zing it’s Obama telling the Russians that he’ll cave after the election…”

    “You’re with us or against us.” according to GWB.

  • Igor

    An informed and active electorate is required to ensure that government keeps business (relatively) honest.

    At least in the case of government citizens can vote. But the individual citizen has almost no hope of dealing with a corporation.

  • zingzing

    #39 is a bunch of poison in the well. that doesn’t bother me as much as the “it goes without saying” before saying what goes without saying, especially when one really says nothing.

    cindy’s second question is easily, if somewhat unsatisfactorily (in that we’ll always have corruption), answered. the first question’s answer would be human nature, greed and a whole host of other motivations… take your pick.

  • Clavos

    #33-Clavos longs for the simple dunderhead days of GW Bush.

    Hardly. Gw was a spendthrift and a warmonger.

  • Igor

    48-clavos: I assume, then, that you voted for Kerry in 2004.

  • Clavos

    No, abuelito, in 2004 the presence of Edwards, that disgusting cockroach, on the Democratic ticket strengthened my resolve as a Vietnam vet NOT to vote for the weasel Kerry.

    I voted for Badnarik, and often do vote Libertarian (though not always).

  • Dr Dreadful

    Clav, seeing as how you’re not exactly Peter Pan yourself, is your habit of insulting the senior citizen members of the BC community kind of like how only black people are allowed to call other black people “nigger”?

    Now where are the rest of those stamp-taxing, freedom-hating, would-be-speaking-German-if-it-wasn’t-for-us limey bastards?

    (Just curious as to how it feels.)

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Clavos –

    That’s good – vote libertarian! And see what happens to Florida’s real estate market when Ron Paul gets rid of the National Flood Insurance Program!

    I don’t pay that much attention to who’s the VP nominee (Palin was an exception, and deservedly so). After all, I’ll always have mostly good things to say about George H.W. Bush…even though he was a potatoe-head for picking Dan Quayle….

  • roger nowosielski

    “Abuelito.” Oh by gosh by golly, I like that term, it’s got possibilities.

    In all fairness, however, I don’t think it’s the chronological age, in and of itself, which is the object of curiosity here but a certain abusive, alas, rigid state of mind which may well indicate an onset of … dementia?

  • Clavos

    On the part of whom, Roger?

  • Clavos

    For Doc and Roger,

    Abuelito is not at all pejorative; it is normally a term of endearment, and I chose it in part because of that.

  • roger nowosielski

    Certainly not on the part of the user, Clav.

    As to it being an endearing term, sort of, I have no doubt because “the elders” are held in a far greater respect in the older cultures than in this one.

    Even so, I’m yet to remain convinced that you and Igor are on such chummy terms. Besides, it’s out of character for you, especially online.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Roger –

    The age of a culture does not always mean anything when it comes to the respect for elders. For instance, the non-native cultures of Central and South America are all about the same age as America’s yet they all have significantly greater respect for elders.

    I suspect what makes the difference is the age of the culture, but the degree of economic success. For instance, the elderly in Japan might still be respected, but there’s a lot of them who wind up in old folk’s homes now, as is pretty obvious in Hawaii. Also, the more economically-successful a culture, the more the progeny tend to move and spread out to different geographical locations, so instead of there being several siblings able to share the load of caring for the elder, it’s usually only one or at best two…and they’re so busy with their economically-‘successful’ lives that they don’t have time to take care of their parents.

  • Igor

    How should we define the success of a society?

    One way that we’ve done that in the past in the USA was to look at consumption level. It was felt that with rising consumption of consumer goods everyone would be well employed and higher average consumption would extend down through the poorest in society. Success became identified with Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and general increase in the economy, reflecting greater productivity, thus higher per-worker output, thus higher per-citizen consumption. It was thought that consumption would simply overwhelm society from top to bottom and wipeout blights like poverty, hunger, unemployment and beggary, simply by overwhelming numbers. The cliche “a rising tide lifts all boats” was often cited.

    But something went wrong. As total wealth increased the benefits went disproportionately to the bosses and the workers actually lost ground. This made for a splendid ruling class, witness Donald Trump, but a dismal lower class. Especially as traditional bootstraps for the deprived-but-eager were demolished or over-subscribed.

    If that disparity isn’t solved we will surely have a traditional bloody revolution, just as history indicates.

    But our traditional laisse faire mechanisms are against resolution. If anything, it will get worse. As the rulers get richer they also become greedier (repeating a historical pattern).

    What we need is a big federal project financed by the federal government with increased progressive taxes.

    That’s what worked in the 30s when we built Hoover dam, Grand Coulee, Golden Gate bridge, Bay bridge, etc. All financed by US General Obligation bonds, because private industry was simply unwilling to do it.

    That is also what worked to build the Great Lakes Canals, the Transcontinental Railroads, the Transcontinental Superhighway system, the Airlines industry, and even the Professional Athletics system.

    All financed and championed by government. None of those projects (and many others) would have existed without government initiative and general population financing.

    All of those projects made tremendous contributions to US business life. Most family fortunes were built on sub-contracts to those government projects.

    If we’d had to wait for private enterprise to do it, we’d still be driving on narrow rutted dirt roads with cars that looked a lot like Tin Lizzies!

    If we’d waited for capitalism to do it we’d be flying out of dirt runways in the middle of corn fields in tri-motor Ford airplanes and paying $5000 to fly to Chicago.

    If we’d waited for capitalism to do it we’d still be dying like flies from TB, polio, pneumonia, etc., instead of being treated by well-trained doctors from our extensive land-grant colleges.

    The engine of growth across America and throughout American business has been the government sponsored, tax-payer financed big projects aimed at the benefit of the general citizen instead of a particular interests of a narrow Board Of Directors.

    Two big areas we need to attack are Universal Healthcare (UHC) and Universal Employment. Both require the application of the same skills and committment that we’ve used before for other glorious projects in our past.

  • Clavos

    the Airlines industry


    Apart from a limited number of postal contracts in the very beginning, the pioneers (Juan Trippe, Eddie Rickenbacker, etc.) built the airlines and the industry themselves, with little to no help from government or anyone else.

  • Igor

    BS. The airlines were UTTERLY dependent on government financed endeavors.

    Lindbergh himself flew airmail routes to perfect his technique.

    Juan Trippe flew seaplanes because he HAD to. There were no suitable land fields. And when there were (as financed by government and civilians) he was put out of business!

    Not one International airport in North America was privately financed. It was always a combination of federal and local bonds.

    And here’s the kicker: many of those public bonds (that financed private development and made many millionaires) are still being paid off! And the low-life rightists who benefited so mightily from airline expansion and STILL benefit from government underwriting, are the ones leading complaints against taxes! Those taxes are needed to pay off the bonds that made those *ssholes rich!

    One thing we’ve got to do in the future is prevent private parties from getting up-front commissions and fees from publicly financed projects. Make’m work until the projects pay off.

    USA taxpayers and government have been overly generous to the ripoff artists and cream skimmers who have been allowed to participate in huge projects. It’s past time for the benefits of communal investment to benefit the USA citizen.

  • zingzing

    hrm. i dunno, clavos… from what i remember, postal contracts were a huge boon to the industry during the late teens/early 20s, as passenger flights were rather rare until the mid-late 20s. more often than not, i’ve seen the postal contracts described as crucial to the airlines early existence. it’s doubtless than someone or something else would have come along if there hadn’t been such contracts, but many of the major carriers of the 20th century got their (profitable) start as mail carriers. i could be wrong, of course, but that’s what i’ve been told. (and then the army came calling during ww2, which was another big boon for the industry, i’d imagine.)

  • Igor

    #26-Clavos, with remarkable candor, shows his naivete:

    “After my election I have more flexibility.”

    It’s a tautology. Did you ever have any doubt? Did you think russian planners never thought this?

    How dumb can you get, Clavos?

  • Dr Dreadful

    If human beings really did act the way we often portray politicians as acting, we wouldn’t be here arguing about it in the form of pixels.

    We’d probably still be back in East Africa, idly commenting to one another about how big that crack in the ground has become lately, and what a lot of steam is coming out of it, and how much it smells like rotten brontosaurus eggs, and was it just me, Oogra, or did you just hear a loud guttural purring sound behind us? Oogra? …Oogra? …Oogra???

    In fact, we might not even have made it down out of the trees.

  • Igor


  • Glenn Contrarian

    Doc –

    You forgot that big black monolith and the strains of really weird noises that in another world would have been called Also Sprach Zarathustra. But then conservatives among us would have told us the monolith was evil and convinced us all to run away from it.

    And later, perhaps, some of us could go back and walk around it, hitting each of its sides with seven pebbles. Maybe we could call it “stoning the devil“.

    (Disclaimer: this isn’t meant to poke fun at religion, but to point out where conservative mindsets often lead.)

  • Dr Dreadful

    Igor: I meant that we often portray politicians as behaving in unrealistic ways, akin to how characters in soap operas or cartoons behave. Our portrayals are caricatures of real human behaviour.

    For example, Obama says something in an interview, speech or other public setting that is seized on by certain observers as PROOF that he is a secret socialist, and/or is planning to Destroy Our American Way Of Life.

    This is not how real human beings act. It is how evil characters in soap operas act, so as to convey to the audience that they are evil. A real person hell-bent on doing damage wouldn’t fucking telegraph it to the populace at large.

  • Clavos

    Pretty dumb, I guess, Igor. When I negotiate, I don’t tip my hand in public — But then, I’m dumb (but candid).

  • Clavos

    And I certainly don’t let my opponents know I’ll “be flexible” gratuitously.

  • Christopher Rose

    It is a little odd that you see people you are “negotiating” with as opponents, Clavos. Perhaps you need to be rather more flexible in your approach…

  • Clavos


    When you are negotiating with a multimillionaire over the price of his new toy, and he wants to “negotiate” you out of the better part of your commission (a mere drop in the bucket to him; much more significant to you), if you don’t think of him as an opponent, you’ll be taken to the cleaners.

    And, in the case of negotiations between the USA and Russia, “opponents” might be too gentle a word; “adversaries” probably fits better. Putin, in particular, has the face of a thug. Given his past history in service to Russia and the Soviet Union, I don’t think “thug” is far off the mark.

  • Glenn Contrarian


    Doesn’t that depend on whose crap-colored glasses you’re looking through?

  • zingzing

    well, clavos, there’s nothing you can do but be flexible when it comes to russia, and particularly, when it comes to negotiations over missiles. if you’re not, and you don’t get what you want, what are you going to do? commit nuclear holocaust? sorry, but the game is tilted against you. it’s like two guys pointing guns at each other, but even if someone shoots and kills the other person, the other person can still shoot back.

    if you wish to approach that with no flexibility, we can all be real damn happy you’re not the one making those decisions. as you said, such an approach would be “pretty dumb.”

  • Christopher Rose

    You are delightfully old school, Clavos, really anachronistic!

    Putin, regardless of his appearance, pretty much is a thug, in much the same kind of way that most characters from the Wild West era of US history were thugs, regardless of whether they were the law abiding type or out and out crooks.

    I doubt it is possible to be anything other than somewhat thuggish to survive in the higher echelons of contemporary Russian business or politics but, like the USA, that will change over time.

    zingzing, if it came down to it, I would prefer you to be negotiating for us than Clavos!

  • Glenn Contrarian

    I think that all us non-conservatives are forgetting the First Rule of Post-Reagan Conservatism: Thou Shalt Not Negotiate or Compromise One Whit With Anyone Who Doesn’t See Things Exactly Our Way.

  • Clavos

    well, clavos, there’s nothing you can do but be flexible when it comes to russia, and particularly, when it comes to negotiations over missiles. if you’re not, and you don’t get what you want, what are you going to do?

    Outspend them and drive them out of competition, like Reagan did with the Soviets? There are probably plenty of other options, as well.

  • Igor

    #75-Clavos: repeats some Reagan rightist apocrypha:

    “Outspend them and drive them out of competition, like Reagan did with the Soviets?”

    Russian historians say that Reagans saber-rattling prolonged the cold war by legitimizing the Russian hawks.

    It also put Bush 1 into a financial hole that maybe cost him the 1992 election.

  • zingzing

    clavos: “Outspend them and drive them out of competition, like Reagan did with the Soviets?”

    so you want to throw money at the problem now?

    “There are probably plenty of other options, as well.”

    so you are flexible in your inflexibility… maybe one of your options should be good faith negotiation. it’s easier than the hostility you seem to think is necessary.

  • Clavos

    maybe one of your options should be good faith negotiation…

    Sometimes. When circumstances (and opposite side) warrant it. But I don’t gratuitously tell them that up front; it costs too much in leverage.

    maybe one of your options should be good faith negotiation…

    All well and good when those with whom you are negotiating are doing so in good faith.

    The Russians haven’t got much history in that regard when negotiating with the US and other NATO countries. One wonders if the Czechs, Hungarians and others trusted them? If they did, they certainly must have regretted it when the tanks began to roll down their streets.

  • zingzing

    “trust” is a pretty strong word. i don’t think anyone is working under the impression that anyone else has anything but their own interests at heart. (and let’s not pretend that the us has never been underhanded in their international dealings.)

    “leverage” is pretty negligible when both sides can still assure mutual destruction several times over. working towards a compromise both can live with demands flexibility and a certain amount of openness. obama hasn’t given up much of anything. he just said “not now, we’ll see about later.” which, if you ever had a mother, you know that doesn’t mean “yes” in any way. and it probably means that mother is just buying time so you’ll forget about it. russians may be slightly different from mothers, but he certainly hasn’t given them anything they want yet, and he hasn’t promised he will either.

  • Christopher Rose

    Negotiating in good faith doesn’t need or require that you tell the people you are negotiating with that you are so doing.

    Good negotiation is mostly the art and skill of knowing how far you are willing to move and on which points plus not being afraid to walk away when an acceptable deal can’t be achieved.

  • Cannonshop

    #76 NO, what cost Bush the ’92 election, was bailing out his crooked SON. The activities that led to the S&L bailout included more than a little bit of the same sort that led to the bank-failouts and massive bailouts from 2007 to 2009. Silverado Savings and Loan were entwined in some VERY crooked dealings througout the Southwest, and Neil Bush, GHWB’s darling little boy, was in charge, when his pecker got caught, Daddy broke the bank to save his sorry ass-thus necessitating tax increases and military drawdowns, and the family connection led to a general loss of Trust-much deserved-of Bush Elder.

    Mind you, the Deregulation of the S&L’s that led to that, happened under Jimmy Carter, but Bush Sr. didn’t let the market play out-kind of like Bush Jr., only without quite as many family members involved, and the damage was on a bigger scale thanks in part to Bob Reich’s advice to Bill Clinton in the nineties, faithfully followed by Bush Jr. in the 2000’s. NO lessons were learned from the S&L crisis that should’ve been applied to the recent crisis, in spite of identical policies driving both to occur.

  • Igor

    Sometimes in negotiations you gotta tease the other parties in order to draw them into a revelation or offer. Gin Rummy experts I used to watch called it ‘romancing’ when they offered a card that a shallow player would find anomalous.

    Like a seductress, you have to flash a little flesh to keep interest warm.