SPELLING OUT YOUR LOSS FUNCTION. Reason's Jacob Sullum evaluates the downside risks of electing either of the major party candidates.

The extent of the president's powers, although hardly mentioned during the general election campaign, is probably the most important consideration in choosing between McCain and Obama. It is tied to all the other major issues, including the Iraq war, the fight against terrorism, and the government's response to the current economic situation.

The crucial question is which matters more: a president's theory of executive power or the political environment he faces. If the former, Obama is the less risky choice. If the latter, McCain is, since he would face a less compliant Congress. In that case, the Republicans' sorry performance during their six years in charge of the executive and legislative branches, by highlighting the virtues of divided government, may be the best argument for their nominee.

Unfortunately for me, the Illinois Republican Party has been sufficiently inept that I don't have good choices to protect myself from a Democratic president. On the other hand, the state Democratic Party has been sufficiently inept that it is the taxpayers' best protection against its majority.

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