The Filibuster is Bad for Reform, Period.

Cato's David Boaz attempts to make a libertarian defense of the filibuster, and Matthew Yglesias offers his response:

People who want to move public policy in the United States in a more libertarian direction support the idea of having congress pass legislation. As I was able to get Jonathan Bernstein to agree, the impact of the idiosyncratic elements of the American political system is to enhance the influence of interest groups and decrease the influence of ideologues and technocrats. Libertarians shouldn’t like that very much, it seems to me.

That's about right; Boaz says that the filibuster is useful for "those of us who prefer liberty, limited government, and federalism," but I'd be hard-pressed to name an instance when the filibuster enhanced or protected either of those things. Historically, the filibuster has been the weapon of choice for senators who sought to sink civil rights and anti-lynching legislation, and today, as a tool for obstruction, the filibuster keeps legislation bloated and inefficient.

The 60-vote Senate doesn't enhance debate or slow down legislation for the better; it empowers rent-seeking pols like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, and Scott Brown, and makes it incredibly difficult to pass intelligently designed legislation. The Affordable Care Act wasn't a convoluted mess because liberals love needless complexity -- quite the opposite; liberals like single-payer because it's simple -- it was a convoluted mess because Senate Democrats had to bypass a huge number of veto points and entrenched interests. Conservatives like to complain about the giveaways in health-care reform, but categorical and unanimous opposition kept Democrats from building a coalition large enough to bypass rent-seekers and special interests. Without the filibuster, health-care reform -- and later, financial reform -- might have been simpler, and more streamlined.

Libertarians should take note; far from keeping you safe from the scourge of hasty legislation, the filibuster empowers the worst elements of the political system, while creating near insurmountable barriers to anything beyond the most incremental reform.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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