Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
– Robert Conquest
David Frum has a proposed State of the Union Address at Esquire.
There is perhaps no more striking progressive belief than the belief that bodies can be created through a political process but, once created, can operate independently of politics.
A moment of thinking with a coherent mind will render this proposition absurd, yet it is held by nearly everyone.
Frum (a Conservative Republican, we are told) uses a magic wand to create independence in two areas:
The Federal Reserve board is our most important recession-fighting tool. I am disturbed by recent attacks on the independence of the Federal Reserve. Like all the presidents since the creation of the Federal Reserve a century ago, I will defend the independence of the Federal Reserve.
The Fed, of course, is not independent in any meaningful sense. It’s enthralled with one particular ideology – Keynesianism – that enthrals mainstream economic opinion that is in turned governed by a close-knit group of academics and bureaucrats. The Fed cannot diverge from mainstream academic economic opinion, by definition as its leaders are selected from a pool of mainstream economists. Said opinion is determined largely by tenure committees and federal grants. Nothing about this process is independent in any meaningful sense. Independent bodies set up specific metrics for success and failure. The Fed does not. Independent bodies are held responsible for failure. The Fed is not. Perhaps most ironically, the Fed is "independent" in the sense that it is not held responsible for its failures – a perfect inversion of the real meaning of independence.
On to Frum’s second example:
I propose that all revenues from gasoline taxes, aviation fees, and other similar sources be placed in a fund directed by an independent infrastructure bank. The bank would be permitted to issue bonds up to a certain level, too. Instead of Congress writing a highway bill every five years, the bank would develop a list of priorities — no politics allowed. I’d suggest we have seven directors of the bank. Three would be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. Two would be nominated by a conference of the Republican state governors, two more by a conference of the Democratic state governors. The directors would serve fixed and overlapping terms.
I swear that this is what he is actually proposing – it is not a reactionary parody of something a progressive would propose.
We have 7 members of the Board. Three are appointed by politicians of one sort. Two are appointed by politicians of another sort and the remaining two are appointed by politicians of yet another sort. When you shake that up, what do you get? Politics cubed? Nope, you get the absence of politics, according to Frum.
Maybe if the independent infrastructure bank had existed before Robert Byrd died, he would have retired from the Senate after being appointed to the Board.