Many people say they wish their political parties would work together more often, try to find a consensus, stop arguing so much. Modern political parties are likely to take this at face value, and find more agreements than are desirable. It seems to be happening at the moment in the USA.
Both Presidential candidates agree that the State should bail out Fannie and Freddie. Both agree that the US should run down its troop levels in Iraq as “victory” allows. Both want to increase troop levels in Afghanistan. Now Mr Bush himself is joing the consensus, announcing troop withdrawals from Iraq, ordering more troops in to Afghanistan and bailing out Fannie and Freddie.
Obama calls for change. Mc Cain announces he and Palin are the change. Mc Cain urges tax cuts, so Obama comes up with the need for some tax cuts. Both recommend substantial borrowing by the state.
When the political parties agree it usually means you should look out for your wallet. It is usually agreement based on ever bigger and dearer government. Sometimes the projects – nationalisation, or the more active engagement in a particular war – are destined to have an unhappy end, but any critic is sidelined because the great political machines are behind them.
A lively democracy needs choices. Every major policy by an Administration needs challenge from a vigorous oppositon, to make sure it is tried and tested properly. In the UK the outbreak of consensus has often done huge damage to the public interest. The public is deprived of choice, government is not put on its mettle by having to answer an alternative approach and the public suffers from the smugness and folly of the monopolist down the ages.
Remember the Exchange rate Mechanism? This disastrous economic policy was the only economic policy of the Conservatives that came fully recommended and supported by Labour.
The 1990s in the UK saw the advent of what I call Blajorism – John Major and Tony Blair copied each other to a great extent, and both were fixated by how it appeared in the press rather than by will it work and will it help people?
The US had better be careful. Too much consensus makes the politicians lazy, and may not yield good results for the country.
It is interesting to see how Mrs Palin has changed the race. The latest communications from Mr Obama sound negative and desperate – just like so many other politicians.