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The First Rule Is: Never Let the New Republic Choose the Title for Your Article

Never get involved in a land war in Asia. Never fight a battle of wits when iocane powder is involved. And never, never, never, never, never, never, never let the New Republic's editors choose the headline for your article.

Peter Orszag writes a thoughtful, intelligent piece about America's poetical problems, and the New Republic editors betray him with their headline.

Matthew Yglesias observes:

Better Institutions Aren’t ‘Less Democracy’: Peter Orszag has what I think is a very good column about the desirability of increasing automaticity in certain aspects of American policymaking that’s been given provocative framing [by the New Republic's editors] around the idea that America needs “less democracy.”

Provocative framing has a lot of marketing value, but it also provokes lots of people to disagree with you.

I saw Orzag’s thesis being subjected to a lot of unwarranted scorn earlier today. I would suggest that people ignore the framing [headline by the New Republic and focus on what he’s actually saying.

He seems to have two really concrete suggestions. One is that we should try to enhance the scope of “automatic stabilizers” in American fiscal policy… not something any progressive should have a problem with. The other is that we should strengthen the hand of non-elected boards to make adjustments to Medicare payment rates. Some progressives may have a problem with this on the grounds that cutting spending is a bad idea. But most progressives I know also claim to be admirers of single-payer health care systems that do a better job than America’s of controlling health care costs. The way that they do this is precisely through the sort of technocratic price controls that Orszag is praising.

What I would say on both sides is that [the New Republic editors'] framing everything as a conversation around more or less “democracy” is a foolish way to think about institutional design…. Adopting default rules that strengthen automatic stabilizers wouldn’t be “less democratic,” it would be a good idea.

Yet another reason to think that the sooner the New Republic dies and the moneys that support it flow into other channels, the better for all of us.