From The Comments: Hobby Horses and Dick Rockets

Well, I imagine that's why you're seeing this "hobby-horse" effect.

Without a broad base of ideological support, the thing will never get off the ground.

Also, most policy problems in America aren't nearly as easy as "dunk[ing] a basketball". Actually, to be clear, the step of designing a theoretical policy solution is indeed often *precisely that easy*, it's just that enactment is nearly impossible. Enactment is closer to... well, starting a colony on Mars.

You're here on SB, so I don't have to remind you that the American system of government is essentially broken when it comes to anything more consequential than naming a post office. Secret Congress sometimes works -- in my estimate there are roughly two windows for it: a short one early on before an issue is polarized, and a longer one years later after media attention has subsided -- but it can't in itself resolve big questions. If you're down to mount a long campaign of locking down state trifectas, then you can change some "facts on the ground" and de facto get your national policy preference without a national policy. And reconciliation gives national trifectas the chance to make limited headway.

That's not to say big things DON'T get accomplished. It's just that MOST of the big things for which there are clear majorities, don't. And the few paths that work... well, other people who are much more skilled and ruthless than I at the actual practice of politics are happily plugging away at it as I type this. I'm just a humble internet political junkie jockeying for influence to have my own ideas percolate up to those practitioners.

And, to boot, regulatory capture is a meta-policy problem: It's not merely about "how much oil should we allow be pumped per day?", it's about how to keep the oil companies from rigging the regulators. That's a political systemic problem, which bumps up its difficulty factor in a system where interests are *strongly* tuned to defend themselves against systemic changes that threaten to weight the system against their control. Since you brought up books, Leah Stokes' "Short Circuiting Policy" is an excellent study of this, and the main takeaway I got was basically that the only way to win these fights is to catch the capturers unaware, and be ready to fend them off when they regroup.

To me, that's not really reassuring. It's like listening to your local sports talk radio hosts gush about how, even as much as they hate Bill Belichik, they can't argue with his basic strategy of "Exploit your opponent's greatest weakness and neutralize their greatest strength", and how the local head coach should *really* consider implementing that strategy. By the time you're done discussing all the path-dependent reasons -- the facts on the ground about your roster and their talents -- why such advice is effectively meaningless, well, firing the coach and staging a rebuild is starting to look like a more attractive option.

So, it's not that I'm *not* appreciating path-dependency. If anything, I ought to be accused of overvaluing it. Because when John asks about regulatory capture, that looks to me like just another Mars colony, even if John's superficial goal is to see how much easier it is to dunk a basketball on Mars. And as long as we're talking about Mars colonies, I have some *very strong* opinions about the fact that ESA has devised some superior transfer orbits to NASA's, which could allow us to pack a few more basketballs on Elon's dick-rocket.