Megan McArdle notes that the present period of political chaos is the result of the removal of the various sticks and carrots that the party bosses used to wield to keep control. Americans highly favored the elimination of these tools -- rightly sensing that they were generally used to reinforce the existing power structures at the expense of the citizenry. Now that the tools are gone, the existing power structures are collapsing and things will look chaotic for a while.

Maybe we didn't anticipate the disruption when we removed the carrots and sticks, but this period of chaos will pass. Hopefully we'll end up with a more responsive government.

Meanwhile, we should also count the cost of some of those campaign reforms: They've helped sideline the political parties' establishment leadership, and helped create the current partisan gridlock that so many people lament. People keep asking why John Boehner can't control his caucus, even though the answer is obvious: He has neither carrots nor sticks with which to keep them in line. He can't use earmarks to give anything, and he can't take anything away, because parties no longer control either ballot access or fundraising the way they once did. What's left? Jawboning them about the good of the party, which he has tried, endlessly, with little success. At this point, both the Democratic and Republican parties look more like heritage brands than the powerful institutions they used to be.

One by one, we've stripped away the means that parties used to control their membership: replaced party bosses with primary elections, limited the ability of big donors to directly fund and influence campaigns, cracked down on earmarks and other pork-barrel policies, torn down the congressional institutional structures that used to let a few powerful politicians essentially control what bills made it to a vote. Each step was hailed as a progressive move toward a more flourishing democracy, and perhaps they were. But the more perfect our democracy gets, the more it seems to tend towards chaos. Witness the astonishing longevity of Trump as an electoral force.

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