Propping Up the Past in the Name of Progress

The problem of the United States comes not chiefly from its liabilities, serious though they are, but from the suffocating webs of government regulations and subsidies, pettifoggery (a quarrel about petty points)  and litigation that is devaluing the the assets in our economy.  It comes from the forces of decline described by Mancur Olson- the encrustations of litigious parasites, monocausal movements, sclerotic bureaucracies, and dogged defenses of backward-looking big government by poll –driven politicians looking to sustain popular if prodigal government subsidies.  It feeds on campaign financing laws that give political action committees of unions and corporation the right to spend unlimited sums on politics while individual citizens are restricted to $2,500 per campaign.  On this point, the famous Occupiers of Wall Street got something partly right.  Corporations and unions are not aggregate citizens or political entities and should not be direct players in politics.  But individual citizens should be allowed to spend whatever they wish.  The current campaign finance system delivers our politics into the hands of monomaniacs, which is what PACs are.  Unlike a citizen, who has a range of interests and a stake in his community, a PAC is by definition devoted to a single cause.  Thus its donations are indistinguishable from bribes.  Motivated by resentment of wealthy citizens, PACs represent the triumph of lawyered-up collectives that supply a low-information flow of predicable influence peddling, propping up the past in the name of progress.

From the new edition of Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder


Category: Politics

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