Is Making Legislation Really Like Sausage-Making?

Ezra Klein notes, responding to complaints that the process by which health-care reform was passed is somehow less wholesome than with legislation past, "It's common to compare the legislative process to making sausage—the point being that it's ugly and grimy and you'll like it better if you don't watch too closely."

Matthew Yglesias counters:

"Sausage-making, whether you want to make it or not, is the way you make delicious sausage. If there were some better way to do it, people would do it that way instead.

The U.S. Congress isn't like that at all. The idea that it's some kind of gross-looking sausage-making process is, at heart, part of the culture of flattery and egomania that's made the place so dysfunctional. The implicit moral of the sausage analogy, after all, is that like sausage-making it looks bizarre but is actually the best way to make the product."

That makes sense, if you think sausage is delicious, and if you think the finished product is the best thing it could be. But what if you think, as I do, that—a few notable exceptions such as prosciutto notwithstanding—sausage is kind of gross and filled with yucky fat that gets stuck in your teeth? Then, the legislative analogy makes perfect sense. Consider soppressata, which has a flavor that subtly balances sweet, salty, and pork, but also features nasty little round white balls of gristle and, inexplicably, peppercorns. Sometimes it's worth tolerating those shortcomings to enjoy some soppressata on your hero, but that doesn't mean you don't wish the bad parts could be eliminated. And those features spring from the way sausage is made: by grinding up innards and rolling them into tubes with spices. Anything made like that will suffer from imperfections—just like legislation.

What Yglesias proposes—streamlining the legislative process to reduce inefficiencies and imperfections created by, say, the filibuster—is essentially a proposal to switch from eating our pork in sausage form to slicing off a pork chop and throwing it on the grill.

Is Making Legislation Really Like Sausage-Making? | News
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