Politics and rationality

Matthew Yglesias posted this the other day concerning the idea that Obama’s tax proposals were simply too rational. The reason for this in Yglesias’s eyes is that Congress if full of “Senate moderates” who he describes as “someone who takes his party’s proposals, objects to them, waters them down a bit, and then congratulates himself on a job well done. Which is great if his party’s proposals are unduly immoderate. But it’s big-time trouble if his party puts a reasonable, moderate agenda on the table.”

With this in mind the solution for Obama would have been to propose a ridiculous tax law, Yglesias gives the example of a top marginal tax increase of 43 percent, so that the “Senate moderates” then object and “negotiate” the proposal down to what Obama wanted to actually accomplish in the first place.

Seems to me a pretty fair characterization of how much of Congress works. Far too frequently do I hear Senators and Representatives raising objections over what are really quite rational proposals.

Sidenote: While reading Hanna Pitkin’s “The Concept of Representation” for a politics class on Democratic Theory I came across this line

Politics abounds with issues on which men are committed in a way that is not easily accessible to rational argument, that shapes the perception of arguments, that may be unchanged throughout a lifetime. It is a field where rationality is no guarantee of agreement.

Seems that this idea of irrational politics has had some traction for some time. I wonder why no one takes it into account when making policy.