Monday, January 20, 2014

A Congressional Lovefest?

A few weeks ago I posted an entry entitled “Attention All Investors” in which I said that Congrass (oops I meant Congress) was willing to sink the American economy in order to gain political dominance; that this state of affairs was likely to continue indefinitely into the future; and that, therefore, America was not a good place for long-term investment. (The old meaning of the word "congress" is "copulation," and maybe this is what Congress is doing to us.) This essay got more hits than most others. Since there were no comments left, I do not know if the reaction was positive or negative.

Since that time, the budget impasse has been resolved. In December 2013, Paul Ryan (Republican member of the House) and Patty Murray (Democratic Senator) announced a bipartisan budget agreement that has proven acceptable to both parties. Finally, in January, both houses of Congress passed a budget that forestalls any future battles until September of this year. All of the announcements were celebrational; a Congressional lovefest seems to have begun.

Strangely absent was any Republican attempt to destroy the Affordable Health Care Act. This was what they insisted on eliminating in October, absent which they were willing to crash the economy. Also absent was any Republican mention that they have changed their views. There was no repentance. None of them, to my knowledge, said, “We have decided that the Republican Party was a destructive force in the world, and that we henceforward wish to be constructive, and to love those whom we formerly and very publicly hated.” The Republicans just changed their approach, suddenly and without explanation. It is as if Viking raiders in an Irish monastery suddenly treated their former victims to a feast in their honor. It is as if Scrooge became an altruist without ever having been visited by the three ghosts and not having a change of heart.

Republicans, after having tried intimidation, have decided to embrace altruism.

Needless to say, I do not trust them. This is because I see all politicians (Democrats as well, though less dangerously so) as acting solely in their own interests, desiring only to increase their dominance in society. Animals use whatever behavior patterns they can to gain dominance in their societies. In many mammal species, dominant males use intimidation. But altruism can also be used as a behavior pattern to gain dominance. This pattern is mostly known from humans, either in tribal or civilized societies. The altruistic humans benefit from indirect reciprocity, that is, they gain social capital by getting other people to think they are nice and generous. Politicians are now, as ever, simply trying to manipulate their images.

Just in time for an election year, Republicans have tried to change their image from dominant gorilla to cheerful altruist. As voters go to the polls, they will have forgotten what the Republicans did in 2011 and 2013. Every odd-numbered year is a time for Republicans to turn into gorillas. Even-numbered years are times for them to become altruists. I am not accusing Republicans of doing something supremely evil; I am merely calling them human.

But some of us are not fooled.

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