29.4.10

WE MIGHT BELIEVE YOU IF YOU USED YOUR INSIDE VOICE. Onetime pollster for President Clinton, now regular on Fox Opinion, Dick Morris has collaborated with Eileen McGann on How Obama, Congress, and the Special Interests are Transforming ... A Slump into a Crash, Freedom into Socialism, and a Disaster into a CATASTROPHE ... And How To Fight Back. Maybe the title will be longer than the resulting Book Review No. 8, or at least longer than my comments on it. It's not a Regnery book, and the mustering of statistics is impressive and the analysis at time reasoned. But I'm going to repeat something I wrote about a previous policy polemic. "The class of polemic that pins its hopes on the right people taking power in Washington tends not to impress me." A longer and more carefully documented polemic that pins its hopes on the same thing ... in this instance specifically praying for Republican victories in upcoming special elections -- yes, I'm behind on my Book Reviews, and the authors specifically had Virginia and New Jersey and some outside hopes for Massachusetts in mind -- is ultimately an unimpressive polemic, particularly if it first notes that the troubled assets and fiscal stimulus programs in place as of early 2009 are forms of corporate welfare, next that some of Congress's most Vocal Tribunes of The People are in fact rent-seeking Privileged Insiders, only to make the case for replacing those insiders with Genuine Tribunes of The People, rather than proposing something more fundamental, such as limiting the scope of the National Government because that would be in The Public Interest. (Such a development would not be in the interest of Earnest Washington Polemicists, because they'd have less by way of rent-seeking or outright corruption to write about.) And, not surprisingly, there is no such philosophical consistency in Catastrophe (I think the rest of that is a split sub-title). There is, for example, a chapter calling for the (subsequently enacted) specification of obligations air carriers have to passengers on delayed planes, who become Tarmac Hostages. Here, the rent-seeking is in the form of air carriers influencing Members of Congress. Pretty crummy influence, you'd think the carriers could pry loose some money for more airports or for improvements in the air traffic control system, rather than blocking so-called Passenger Bills of Rights.

And for all the charts, and the naming of names, the authors' case for objecting to health care reform rests on a few horror stories out of Canada rather than on a principled and intellectually consistent argument.

OK, I'm now longer than the title and sub-title, but I'll let Lynne Kiesling summarize.
I think that those who want barriers to corporate forms of political expression because of its injection of money into politics are naive in the extreme. Put another way, money has always influenced politics, and it always will, so comparing real-world politics to an idyllic, utopian republic is an exercise in futility. Wherever we use political institutions to decide outcomes that affect the well-being of any collection of individuals, those individuals are going to attempt to influence the processes leading to those outcomes. Even under BCRA restrictions on corporate political expression, lobbying, rent seeking, and money have continued to determine political outcomes.
I suspect that will be true no matter how many polemicists of how many stripes argue along the lines of "their representatives corrupt, our replacements better."

(Cross-posted to 50 Book Challenge.)

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