The Case For Back-Room Deals, Party Hacks & Unlimited Money in Politics

The Case For Back-Room Deals, Party Hacks & Unlimited Money in Politics

“Libertarians forget that the winds are generally—socially, economically—in their favor,” says Jonathan Rauch, author of Political Realism: How Hacks, Machines, Big Money, and Back-Room Deals Can Strengthen American Democracy. “It is not in their interest to just obstruct on the grounds that everything gets worse if Congress does nothing. What really happens if Congress does nothing is power flows to the president, who does what he damn well pleases.”

Rauch, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, has a message that idealistic libertarians, progressives, and populists don’t want to hear. Appropriations committees are good for us. So are unlimited political contributions to political parties and individual candidates. So are earmarks and even political hacks of all persuasions. What manner of madness is this?!?!

A longtime political reporter at National Journal and The Atlantic and the author of a shelf’s worth of important books on topics from free speech to gay marriage to special-interest politics, Rauch’s latest book, available as a free download at Brookings’ site and at, provocatively argues that back-room deals and what used to be called “honest graft” actually strengthen our democracy.

Such dealings, he tells Reason’s Nick Gillespie, are more than just necessary evils that grease the rusty wheels of politics and allow politicians to enact more laws. They’re a fundamental way that human beings communicate and negotiate in a functioning democracy. And in a country that tilts toward individual freedom and libertarian values, he says, that is a good thing.

Runs about 17:50 minutes.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Interview by Nick Gillespie. Vignettes by Joshua Swain.

For full transcript, downloadable links, and more, go to

Warren Buffett said “When I see memos from Howard Marks in my mail, they’re the first thing I open and read.” Howard is the Co-Chairman of Oaktree Capital Management. He is known in the investment community for his “Oaktree memos” to clients which detail investment strategies and insight into the economy. He treats investing as equal parts psychology and finance, and his book The Most Important Thing provides “uncommon sense for the thoughtful investor.”
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