Monday, April 12, 2010

What's All this about the GOOOH Movement?

By now you’ve heard a thing or two about the GOOOH Movement. GOOOH, pronounced, “Go,” stands for Get out of Our House. GOOOH is a non-partisan, grassroots movement to replace all 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and elect citizens who, presumably, will serve for only one term of office. It’s the brainchild of Jim Cox, a computer specialist who quit his day job to devote all his time to GOOOH.
I won’t go into the details of how the GOOOH process of candidate selection and election is designed to take place; nor will I try to get you fired up for or against the movement. I’ll refer you to the GOOOH web site for the details and the rah-rah stuff. As I write these words, I’m listening to one of the You Tube videos (of seven) answering that question.
This article is a discussion of the pros and cons of a movement to remove every member of the House of Representatives in a single election. I’ve often heard that the Chinese word for crisis is a composite of two words, one meaning danger, and the other meaning opportunity. In the present crisis, the GOOOH movement represents both.
The greatest danger is that we have an unelected, extra-constitutional (some would say unconstitutional) branch of government in the regulatory agencies and other areas of the federal bureaucracy. In the face of an entrenched bureaucracy, newly elected congressmen are babes in the woods. Rather than getting true representatives in Washington, we may be exchanging poor representation for no representation.
The greatest misconception of the GOOOH movement is that we can solve the problems of Washington by electing “the right people” to Congress and leaving them alone to do good. The late Milton Friedman said that congressmen are, in effect, businessmen who will do the right thing or the wrong thing depending on which is more politically profitable. (Perhaps a more apt word, given his rationale, might be mercenaries rather than businessmen.) While his view may have been overly simplistic, he makes a vital point: If the voters don’t monitor their congressmen’s behavior, somebody else will, and probably not for the better.
Another shortcoming of the idea is that it’s not sustainable. Let’s say you throw half the bums out. The other half will probably figure that GOOOH will never be able to give a repeat performance. Not only will they feel less vulnerable, they’ll also know that, with their experience, they can run roughshod over these newcomers.
On the plus side, the voters themselves will feel a sense of empowerment that they’d never felt before. They’ll have seen that they can make a difference. We probably would see a higher degree of citizen participation in government. With that higher degree of citizen participation, we may see a higher determination to throw crooks out of office.
For reasons I described in the series “How Washington Really Works,” the problem in Washington isn’t a case of a few rotten apples spoiling the barrel. It’s a case of a rotten barrel that spoils the apples. Very few academic papers have been written on the Rotten Barrel Theory; but, in certain areas, fundamentally decent people are corrupted by the systems in which they function. I believe that Washington is one such system.
The movement to get the crooks out of office is laudable. That, in fact, is the main reason I started the American Action Report. The GOOOH movement provides some of the direction for the excitement generated by the Tea Parties. The GOOOH movement also should provide some of the incentive and sense of empowerment necessary to watch congressmen once they’re elected.
I know of no movement—and certainly not the American Action Report—that can promise to deliver everything needed to clean up the mess in Washington. I believe, though, that the GOOOH movement is worthwhile for at least two reasons: the immediate gratification we expect to see in removing a significant number of corrupt congressmen, and the sense of responsibility I expect it to generate among its participants.
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s not an end; it’s a beginning. The more difficult part will come after the election.

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