As Barkley Rosser points out in the comments to my post of Martin Feldstein's essay on dealing with the debt, thinking in terms of political parties is not the way to resolve the issue. It is not a matter of voting for conservatives or liberals, let alone Republicans or Democrats. So much for choosing between tweedle dee and tweedle dum.
Instead, creative solutions are to be found in structural changes to politics, not merely shifts in policy. This was, of course, a core message of James Buchanan and his development of constitutional political economy. In the specific context of public finance, Buchanan sharpened this argument against the new orthodoxy of Keynesianism.
As Buchanan and Wagner write in Democracy in Deficit:
“The book is concerned, firstly, with the impact of economic ideas on political institutions, and, secondly, with the effects of these derived institutional changes on economic policy decisions. … We step back one stage, and we try to observe the political along with the economic process. We look at the political economy. The prescriptive diagnosis that emerges suggests disease in the political structure as it responds to the Keynesian teachings about economic policy. Our specific hypothesis is that the Keynesian theory of economic policy produces inherent biases when applied within the institutions of political democracy. To the extent that this hypothesis is accepted, the search for improvement must be centered on modification in the institutional structure.” (emphasis added)
One thing we definitely should take away in these discussions, is that more of the policies pursued over the past 50 years is not going to provide a solution to these ills. As Luigi Zingales argued at the very beginning of the public discourse over the policy response to the global financial crisis:
"If Keynesian principles and education are the cause of the current depression, it is hard to imagine they can be the solution. …
Keynesianism has conquered the hearts and minds of politicians and ordinary people alike because it provides a theoretical justification for irresponsible behaviour. Medical science has established that one or two glasses of wine per day are good for your long-term health, but no doctor would recommend a recovering alcoholic to follow this prescription. Unfortunately, Keynesian economists do exactly this. They tell politicians, who are addicted to spending our money, that government expenditures are good. And they tell consumers, who are affected by severe spending problems, that consuming is good, while saving is bad. In medicine, such behaviour would get you expelled from the medical profession; in economics, it gives you a job in Washington."
It is not a question of political parties and policy preferences, but the structure of politics itself. We simply cannot afford to continue to let the foxes guard the chicken coups anymore, and not expect the chickens to be eaten.