Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Bonfire of Interest Group Liberalism

For over half a century conservatives have been warning that nothing good will come of interest group liberalism.  It leads to the special interest state and reduces society to unconstrained scramble for loot in the halls of government.

Back in the 1940s, with the golden glow of the New Deal in their rear-view mirrors, the hagiographers of the the Roosevelt era were inclined to see the clash of special interests as a good thing.  It was a natural way for coalitions to come together and hash out their differences.  But then in 1969 Theodore Lowi argued in The End of Liberalism that interest group liberalism was just a contest of political power and had nothing to do with the rational or moral questions underlying political questions.

Well, now we have Obamacare and its bonfire of the special interests.  Former regulator James V. DeLong reprises the appalling record of special interest log-rolling that it took to concoct this monster.

And now liberals are shocked, shocked, that it is all falling apart, that the president's promise that you can keep your health plan was all a lie, that millions of people are losing their health plans, and that people are experiencing sticker-shock as they shop for new plans.

Listen, liberals.  The science has been in on this for decades.  Hayek wrote that the government could never have the bandwidth to run anything.  Buchanan and Tullock invented public choice theory to show how special interest lobbying and voting always resulted in the majority eating the minority for lunch.  And then there is "regulatory capture," the idea that an regulated industry always ends up capturing the minds of the regulators set up to control them.

Actually, I think that liberals know all this deep in their hearts.  Their problem is that they are riding the dragon and they don't know how to get off.  They got the power they have by promising stuff to people, and their power depends on keeping on keeping on.  They have even figured out ways to import more voters likely to vote for more programs.

Anyway, there's a chance that the American people will make a decisive turn in the next two election cycles as ordinary middle-class Americans experience directly how interest group liberalism hurts them.

Or maybe they won't, and we'll keep on floating down the river to the waterfall.

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