Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Get the Politics Out of Money

 

George Will’s Prager University video on the regulation of political speech is one of the best the site has ever produced: it’s insightful, slick, and hard-hitting without being explicitly partisan. Watch the whole thing and post it on Facebook; it might get someone thinking. Towards the end, however, Will makes a point in passing that deserved more attention:

The only constitutional way to reduce the amount of money invested in politics is to reduce the role of politics in the distribution of money. If government were not so big, if it were not so busy allocating wealth and opportunity to the politically well-connected, then politics would be less important in our lives, and less money would be spent on it.

A few years ago over drinks, a friend of mine made much the same point. Large businesses, he pointed out, are famously ruthless and obsessed with the bottom line, willing to do anything to maximize their growth and profits. Similarly, lobbyists and lawyers are famously expensive, charging fortunes for political access and the ability to influence laws and regulations.

Given these two facts, what does it tell you that big corporations believe millions of their dollars are better spent manipulating legal and regulatory codes than on making a better product, increasing their sales, or investing? Moreover, what does it tell you that small and medium-sized corporations are often more jealous of their larger competitors’ ability to purchase political access than they are of the benefits of having an established brand and economies of scale?

If you think there’s too much corporate money in politics, ask yourself why corporations think lobbying and influence peddling are such smart investments.

There are 13 comments.

  1. Dr. Strangelove Thatcher

    Excellent catch, Tom. Thank you.

    • #1
    • October 17, 2014, at 7:37 AM PST
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  2. Annefy Member

    PJ O’Rourke has a line covering this important point. (Parraphrasing) when buying and selling is controlled by the legislature, the first thing bought and sold are legislators.

    • #2
    • October 17, 2014, at 8:01 AM PST
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  3. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    I’ve tried making this case to liberals for years. It falls on deaf ears.

    • #3
    • October 17, 2014, at 8:30 AM PST
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  4. TG Thatcher
    TG

    Jamie Lockett:I’ve tried making this case to liberals for years. It falls on deaf ears.

    It’s still true, though.

    • #4
    • October 17, 2014, at 9:11 AM PST
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  5. The (apathetic) King Prawn Inactive

    This article by Kevin Williamson should be required reading for all Americans. It makes the same point in more detail but goes perfectly with the Prager video.

    • #5
    • October 17, 2014, at 10:09 AM PST
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  6. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    Good point, Tom. Several years ago I was reading an article where the author pointed out that business people don’t send lobbyists to Washington when they are in an industry that has no federal regulation.

    • #6
    • October 17, 2014, at 10:14 AM PST
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  7. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    I had a young staff economist who used to like to go to the local Occupy Wall Street encampment back in the day, and talk to the campers. He came away surprised at the number who understood this issue. My take on his non-scientific sampling was that it was a point of common agreement, the libertarian-minded campers agreed with Will on the problem of rent-seeking weasels, that could be solved by less government; but the socialists/communists thought it was a phenomenon that required more government.

    • #7
    • October 17, 2014, at 10:57 AM PST
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  8. SkipSul Moderator

    I’ve been making this point with lefty relatives for years: If the government hadn’t arrogated so much power to itself, with so many damnable regulations, subsidies, transfer payments, taxes, and fees, then there would be far less opportunity for corruption in the first place.

    “But we NEED to regulate industry X to prevent Y!” they reply.

    I ask “But what does anyone in Congress actually know about industry X? Nothing at all, so guess what? They then get the big players in industry X to actually help draft the regulations, with plenty of loopholes for graft and rent-seeking.”

    Strangely I never get more than a sputtering response.

    • #8
    • October 17, 2014, at 1:08 PM PST
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  9. Solon Inactive

    I love it when someone explains why clichés like this are actually wrong.

    • #9
    • October 17, 2014, at 1:13 PM PST
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  10. Randy Weivoda Moderator

    skipsul:I’ve been making this point with lefty relatives for years: If the government hadn’t arrogated so much power to itself, with so many damnable regulations, subsidies, transfer payments, taxes, and fees, then there would be far less opportunity for corruption in the first place.

    “But we NEED to regulate industry X to prevent Y!” they reply.

    I ask “But what does anyone in Congress actually know about industry X? Nothing at all, so guess what? They then get the big players in industry X to actually help draft the regulations, with plenty of loopholes for graft and rent-seeking.”

    Strangely I never get more than a sputtering response.

    To a lot of people “unregulated” is synonymous with “dangerous”. It’s a tough mindset to overcome.

    • #10
    • October 17, 2014, at 1:36 PM PST
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  11. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    If you want less money in politics make politics about less.

    • #11
    • October 17, 2014, at 6:04 PM PST
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  12. Songwriter Member

    George Will almost always makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, the American Left has little or no common sense at all – so they simply cannot understand.

    • #12
    • October 18, 2014, at 10:08 AM PST
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  13. Οἰκονομία Inactive

    Reduce the value of rent seeking, and you will get less rent seeking. How do people not understand this…

    • #13
    • October 18, 2014, at 12:12 PM PST
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