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.

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There are 13 comments.

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  1. user_75648 Thatcher
    user_75648
    @JohnHendrix

    Excellent catch, Tom.  Thank you.

    • #1
  2. Annefy Member
    Annefy
    @Annefy

    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
  3. user_331141 Inactive
    user_331141
    @JamieLockett

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

    • #3
  4. TG Thatcher
    TG
    @TG

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

    It’s still true, though.

    • #4
  5. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    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
  6. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    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
  7. Muleskinner Member
    Muleskinner
    @Muleskinner

    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
  8. skipsul Inactive
    skipsul
    @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.

    • #8
  9. J Flei Inactive
    J Flei
    @Solon

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

    • #9
  10. user_138562 Moderator
    user_138562
    @RandyWeivoda

    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
  11. Mark Coolidge
    Mark
    @GumbyMark

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

    • #11
  12. Songwriter Inactive
    Songwriter
    @user_19450

    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
  13. curtis.bankers@gmail.com Inactive
    curtis.bankers@gmail.com
    @user26639

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

    • #13
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