I Have Had This Argument About a Zillion Times

From Arnold Kling

I think that (non-classical) liberals and libertarians see the problem of "special interests" differently. Liberals view special interests as exogenous to the policy process. You have to overcome special interests to create good policy. Libertarians see special interests as endogenous. Policy is what creates them.

Yep, I have had this argument about a million times with liberals.  Liberals will argue that government power is neutral to positive, and that it is private action corrupting government, and this corruption can be avoided if private action is aggressively policed (including campaign spending limits, etc).  Example:  If Wall Street money could be taken out of politics then financial regulation would work.

I argue that money in politics are a result of the stakes that we have put on the table -- the more power we give to government to reallocate wealth, the more money will be spent to have such decisions made in one's favor.  In the age old question of whether a bribe is more the fault of the politician that demanded it or the private party that offered it, I would answer that the fault is with the system that gives the politician enough power to make such a bribe pay.  And increasing the government's power to limit private involvement in politics (e.g. via campaign spending limits) only makes the government power problem worse.


  1. morganovich:

    i am with you 100%.

    to take influence out of politics, you must take influence away from politicians.

  2. carnahan:

    BANG! Hit the nail on the head....

  3. Gil:

    Considering the way insurance companies work, if you're robbed and you forgot to lock the door then you're to blame because you create an attractive opportunity, hence no insurance for you. By the same token, if the government announced that for twenty-four hours crime would not be enforceable then whoever committed any unpleasant activities haven't commit any crimes per se. Taking it to the government sphere if private companies can rig the government system to their favour then they okay because the attractive opporunities merely present themselves.

  4. caseyboy:

    Nothing to add, succinct and logically presented.

  5. Pat:

    I agree with you, Warren. It seems to me that if the government is in the game of picking winners and losers, any company or group is foolish not to play. The way to remove the influence of lobbyists is to have the government stop making lobbying worthwhile. They only do that by stopping the practice of picking winners and losers in the marketplace through regulation, tax law, and outright corruption.

  6. John David Galt:

    You hit the nail squarely on the head, but you might mention that economists call this game of buying influence "rent seeking," and have proven that the wealth spent on it is effectively destroyed. Anyone who wants to know why our economy hasn't recovered need look no further. David Friedman's books (especially "Law's Order," which is free on his web site at daviddfriedman.com) both explain the term and reference the original studies.