"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on rather than off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lobbying Is A Symptom Of Big Government

A common complaint heard from any side in a political argument is the outrageous amount of influence lobbyists have in Washington D.C. The concern is merited, as well: in the 2012 presidential election, Republican Mitt Romney gathered over $990 million to spend on his bid, while Barack Obama raised over $1 billion. Representatives from every industry lobby the government for handouts, subsidies, and regulations. 

The question is how do we limit the ability of the rich and powerful to use their wealth to oppress those who don't have the means or desire to buy a politician? 

Some will argue that we need to prevent corporations and unions from campaigning or donating, but proponents of these idea ignore that individuals do not lose their rights (to free speech, for example) just because they are acting through an organization. Otherwise, television, radio, magazine, newspaper, and especially internet-based companies would have to seek government approval before they could televise/broadcast/publish anything. 

Technically, everyone has the right to lobby because of freedom of speech. Using government force to curb that freedom for anyone should be an obvious no-go.

Donation limits make absolutely no sense either. How does one's right to support a candidate stop at an arbitrary dollar amount? All donation limits have done is made common the use of political action committees (PACs) as a way around them.  Further donation limit restrictions will simply force even more of these dealings under the table and out of public eyes, which often results in more corruption with larger amounts of money.

Some argue for term limits, but this may just encourage politicians to become even more corrupt as they try to squeeze every last penny and favor out of the public before they can't do it again. While I support term limits, they will do nothing to address the problem.

The last, but possibly the worst suggestion is taxpayer-funded election campaigns which, it is believed, will completely remove private interests from elections. All this does is, as I mentioned, force the money out of view without stopping the problem. The worst part about this suggestion is the fact that it forces people to pay for the campaigns of candidates they may not even support. Mandatory donations, in a nutshell.

Both the problem and the cure is in the scope of our government. In case you missed it, our "leaders" handed out about $700 billion a few years ago to some of their banker buddies disguised as a "bailout" and they continue to hand out billions of dollars more as unnecessary "subsidies" to leaders in other industries. With so much money and power up for grabs, why wouldn't a large company try to buy influence over a lawmaker or two? That way they can either get some taxpayer dollars or have their man pass regulations that the company can pay for but its smaller competitors can't.

It's only because we've concentrated so much power in the Federal government that lobbying is such a problem. If someone's goal is to buy power and influence, how convenient it must be to have one single all-powerful institution to target rather than tens, hundreds, or even thousands of smaller, localized governments with which to bargain and scheme. Our Founders were aware of this fact; after all, they had just spent almost a decade rebelling against an omnipotent king that had oppressed them from across the Atlantic ocean. Thomas Jefferson wrote:

"I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market." - Thomas Jefferson

Here, Jefferson warns of the inevitable corruption of centralized government. The Constitution distributed power so that most of it rests at the individual and local level and the least at the federal level. Think of the power structure as a pyramid: individuals make up the base (the broadest, largest part with the most power), state governments and local communities form the middle, and the federal government (Congress, President, Supreme Court) makes up the top, which should have the least amount of power.

Kind of like the food pyramid, except without the B.S.

Luckily for the corrupt, we've managed to flip that pyramid over. Instead, the federal government has been assigned the broadest spectrum of powers in our society and the individual the fewest. This didn't make us safer or more prosperous; it just turned presidents and senators into more worthwhile investments. 

By enlarging the powers of our government past their Constitutional boundaries, even with good intentions, we only put more and more power up for sale for those who have the desire and means to get it.

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