In discussing The Donald’s ban on Muslims entering the US, Charles Krauthammer notes:
Temporary only, we are assured, except that the ban applies “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on” — a standard so indeterminate as to be meaningless.
The quote is a wonderful phase. It made sense to us when we first saw it and the concept still makes sense but the quote tell us much about the condition of politics in 2016.
The concept makes sense. If we have a problem we should stop the problem immediately and work at a permanent solution. It is especially true in government where the processes to implement change are involved.
The problem is two-fold. There are problems with the concept and the application. It would be great fun to be able to stop X as president. As a purely hypothetical example, if the Clintons left the country we could keep them out until we figured out what to do with them. The concept is one of those slippery slopes that we don’t want to go too far down. The problem is for most of us we want to go a little way down the slope without sliding into the abyss. It is why judgment is (or at least should be) an important characteristic in our candidates for office. For example, John Taylor’s many discussion about rules for monetary policy. Here is one:
Adam Posen says that “any imposition of a simplistic rigid policy rule with mechanistic monitoring will only serve to politicize monetary policy to an unprecedented extent.” But the Act does not impose anything simplistic, rigid or mechanistic on the Fed, which would describe its own strategy. Moreover, having a clearly stated economic strategy reduces, rather than increases, politicization.
There is a time when the President will need to say this must stop now but the general rule is that the President cannot do that at will.
The application challenge is getting our country’s representatives to figure out what is going on. Most voters are wondering when this will happen. In fact, one take away from The Donald’s announcement might be that this is a permanent ban because our country’s representatives will never figure out what to do about immigration. One of the reasons is that for the last decade or so there has been an obsession with comprehensive solutions. The problem is that attempted comprehensive solutions, see Obamacare, tend to be neither comprehensive nor solutions. Regular order rather than grand bargains or comprehensive solutions are in order.
For example, let’s reform entitlements step-by-step rather than comprehensively. We are convinced that Social Security needs to be means tested. Let’s start with a modest proposal and see how it works. For example, how do you measure income or wealth that leads smaller or no checks? Would a person with a $10 million Roth IRA still get Social Security under your proposal?
The point is that life is a multi-player game. As governments take actions so do individuals. The government need to see the reactions to its policies. Comprehensive solutions have too many moving parts to be improved. Of course, the difficulties of the federal government in reacting to change is a big reason to delegate to state and local governments because they are more nimble. Regular order and leaving the work to state and local government would be a nice change.