[ I didn't meant to start trouble, though, of course, I see now that making an unsubstantiated claim as I did is licence to get such a discussion started.
I guess the first thing I need to do is clarify my initial statement a little bit. When I made the initial statement about tort reform being "largely about" damaging democratic donors, I was directing that at the [R] leadership, not the "average" republican. The fact that the issue has traction among "real people" doesn't, in and of itself, prove it's merit. As with everything, political ideas are marketed heavily, and this is one that's gotten a lot of airtime. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that everyone who supports tort reform is a dupe or a moron, any more than I would say that everyone who buys coca cola is a slave to marketing. Nonetheless, there are real effects to pressing ideas in this way, and I truly believe that a) the leaders of the conservative movement support tort reform, among other reasons because it hurts democrats and b) that their arguments are disingeuous and misleading. Thus the support it has is among people who either really do support the wrongheaded (my opinion) ideology here, or people who don't really understand the issues at hand. That's not a slight at stupid conservatives either, by the way, because I'm convinced that 80% of the populace, on both sides of the divide, are not informed enough to really support anything.
Your second paragraph above :
The fact is taht astroturf campaigns about tort law wouldn't have any political traction if normal people didn't feel that these things impact their freedom.
comes dangerously close to saying that people aren't affected by marketing and never act or speak against their self interest, and that they carefully analyze all their opinions. That's a worthy and generous assumption, but you can't honestly believe it. Marketing campagins do need to resonate against something, but that "thing" doesn't have to be well developed opinion. It can just as easily be fear, pride, greed, hate, etc. I'm saying here that, democracy or not, support for an issue doesn't necessarily imply the validity of the issue. That sounds like I'm a totalitarian at heart, but really, I just don't think our democracy is healthy for precisely the reason that people aren't informed. The less people know and think and analyze, the less relevant broad support becomes, because you can't trust the Reason behind that support.
I also want to elaborate on the bolded words above, because that gets missed in a lot of heated discussions. I never said, nor did I intend to imply, that tort reform is ONLY about this issue. I said "largely". One meaning of that is "mainly" but the other one is just "substantially"... i typically employ it in the latter sense. There are lots of reasons the right favors this legislation, and some of them even agree with your position that a liability culture creates a dampening impact on everyone's ability to enjoy life. That's fair, but it's a vast oversimplification to blame the legal community for that. Do some lawyers advertise on billboards, promising giant rewards? Of course. Does this appeal to the greediest, basest side of human nature? Yep. But the powerful of the Right have taken the distaste people have of such attorneys and parlayed it into a message that lawyers are greedy, and hurting america. I think that's garbage. People are greedy. Some of them are lawyers. Most of them aren't, and lawyers exist to serve a market need among regular people. I think a lot of those would change their views on this issue in a heartbeat if they saw the chance to get rich by suing a giant corporation. That's my cynical view of human nature for the day.
Incidentally, I'm sympathetic to your libertarian derived opinion that we go too far in a lot of ways. Playing golf in the park is pretty obviously, to me, not something you should be allowed to do, because you're causing a direct and obvious danger to other people. In many situations where the danger is to you and only you, then it shouldn't be restricted. I guess the main problem I see is that pretty soon you have to realize that there aren't nearly so many issues in that category as you initially think. Most activities have a potential social cost at some point, and ignoring that, or pretending that you live in isolation (not you specifically of course), does not match the highly interconnected reality of the world. Personal responsibility only makes sense when understood in the context of responisbility for the greater repurcussions of your actions. This aspect, i find, is often lost. -k]
[ p.s. I meant to comment on your analogy to the gun companies. In fact, I absolutely believe that eroding [R] financial support is a part of the [D] reasoning for supporting that issue. My analysis of [R]'s is that they're *more* likely to favor such activities, because from my perspective, they've been less honest and more tricky historically. Nonetheless, I'm certain that no one in the [D] leadership is particularly unaware of, nor unhappy about, the fact that success on this issue also means less money for their opponents. Perhaps it's a sad commentary on how far our politicos have fallen, or maybe it's always been this way or maybe it's always been *worse*. I don't know, but it's silly to deny that hurting your opponent is, now, just as important as, if not more important than, presenting your own ideas. Without question, it's one of the main things I'd like to see change. ]
RE: The politics of taxation