The Problem With Debates in America

You may or may not have watched the Republican debate last night.  We watched.  Debates like this are pretty pointless I think.  The candidates that do well are masters of the soundbite.  Lots of bloggers will rate the debate and pick winners and losers.  In a debate with as many candidates as the Kentucky Derby, it’s really pointless at this point to pick.

For example, Governor Chris Christie is extremely good at soundbites.  I am not sure he is good at governing.  He inherited a huge amount of problems in New Jersey, and he still has them.  New Jersey pensions and taxes are a mess.  Governors like Perry, Kasich, Jindahl all were in favorable states with favorable legislatures and favorable underlying economic conditions that gave them tailwind.  Contrast that with Governor Scott Walker.  His responses were pretty plain.  But, if you look at his record in Wisconsin, he executed.   Out of everyone on the stage he was the only one that proved he could execute successfully in adverse conditions.  If you were a startup investor and all these guys were pitching a startup, Walker looks like the one that you could bank on.

At least the quality of the Republican field is pretty good.  At this stage of the game, it’s good to have a lot of choice, and competition.  Senator Rubio had some nice responses and so did Governor Kasich.  America has some really huge problems that need to be solved pretty quickly.  If you didn’t see the earlier debate, Carly Fiorina was very sharp.  I thought Mr. Trump was Mr. Trump and I expect his poll numbers to dwindle-though there were a few times he had some interesting things to say given his business background.  He was right about having zero competition in medical insurance.  He was right about eliminating artificial borders that set up state sanctioned cartels for insurance.  Doctor Ben Carson seems like the right person to run and reform the Department of Health and Human Services.  Every candidate ought to be listening.

Free markets are always messy and the Republican field looks like a free market right now. But, free markets allocate resources the best.  The best candidate will emerge out of this mess.

On the flip side, the Democrats are resembling a centralized Politburo.  Secretary Clinton is the choice, take it or leave it.  What’s interesting to me is that Senator Bernie Sanders has a lot of traction that doesn’t seem to go away.  The reason he doesn’t go away is I think he resembles the heart and soul of where most Democrats are today-and Sanders is a socialist.  He has tapped into their emotional soul.

Too often, our Presidential debates are filled with stupid gotcha questions.  They are often more about the questioners than the actual meat of the responses.  In the 2012 debates, Candy Crowley even defended President Obama and lied about Governor Romney’s answer.

Today questions about abortion and gay marriage are mostly moot points.  63% of the federal budget is entitlements.  Obamacare and Dodd-Frank have killed entire industries.  President Obama screwed up our immigration system, our foreign policy, and expanded our national debt.  We ought to be talking a lot about federal regulation and the role it should play in our lives.  Economist John Cochrane wrote a piece entitled, The Rule of Law in the Regulatory State and everyone should read it.  It is an awesome no frills, non-politicized, explanation of where we are today.  My gut tells me if you are a supporter of either Secretary Clinton or Governor Jeb Bush, you’d dislike what Cochrane wrote.  But, it rings absolutely true, loud and clear.

Perhaps we ought to change the way candidates debate to the way Lincoln and Douglas debated.  They were the actual inspiration for this whole debate thing anyway.  The split in America between the Big Government/Big Regulation/Big Government Program faction in the US versus the small government libertarian faction is not dissimilar to the split we had over slavery in the 1800’s.  Of course, I fall in the camp that believes government is not the answer to most of our problems.  I think it would be far better to give candidates one question, one topic for the evening.  Then let them speak at length and have them question each other.  Have one moderator that marks time.

I think we’d learn a lot more about the candidates than we do today.  Better information helps markets make better choices.