Sunday, May 16, 2010

A Bench of Rivals

New York Times editorial "A Bench of Rivals" (May 14th, 2010) raises economic ignorance to an exalted status by praising Elena Kagan's suggestion that incumbents do not favor laws that favor incumbents, an idea that flies in the face of the simplest stylized facts of political economy. Antonin Scalia suggested that politicians are biased towards laws that favor their own self-interest, and Kagan denies it. Kagan is either being disingenuous or monstrously foolish.

Indeed, Ms. Kagan gave as good as she got. Later in her presentation, Justice Scalia again interrupted, to remind her that there are reasons to be suspicious of Congressional regulation of campaigns: 'I doubt that one can expect a body of incumbents to draw election restrictions that do not favor incumbents,' Justice Scalia said. He then asked, rhetorically: 'Now is that excessively cynical of me? I don’t think so.' Ms. Kagan, without missing a beat, shot back, 'I think, Justice Scalia, it’s wrong.'

Kagan's argument is not a point of view with any basis in fact. There are a plethora of ways to show that incumbents favor themselves over potential opponents, but the point is made best graphically below, with a depiction of Pennsylvania Congressional District 12 (click to enlarge), surrounded by rival party districts:

Or North Carolina's Congressional District 12 (click to enlarge):

Or Illinois's Congressional District 4 (click to enlarge):

These are samples of districts that have been deliberately drawn to give one party an electoral advantage--the first for John Murtha, the second a district that had been repeatedly struck down as racially gerrymandered throughout the 90's until it was decided that racially-focused partisan gerrymandering was constitutional. The third is another racially-focused partisan gerrymandered district. No thinking, ingenuous individual could think that politicians do not favor themselves.

1 comment:

  1. Kagan's ability to with a straight face deny a fact of life that has been obviously and repeatedly manifest since the birth of America is quite interesting in context with the fact that she has led a life that seems to leave no mark in terms of clearly articulated opinions on any topics or even any trace of a lifestyle of a life. Much like Obama (with his invisible college life or his votes of "present") she knows that her true opinions would preclude the public from accepting her into a leadership role so she has chosen a career without leaving a mark in order to get her hands on the levers of power in the Supreme Court. Yet what we know from her actions at the court is that when she has an axe to grind on an issue she is fully content to with a straight face deny obvious realities. Alinsky would observe and approve. Americans may or may not notice the absence of authenticity, may not ask "what are you trying to hide" and the deception will probably succeed - until we start to get a continuing stream of off-the-wall decisions and people then wake up and wonder "how did this happen, how did this ultra-leftist actually get through?" - a question many find themselves asking about her current boss for the same reasons.