Big Government and Big Corruption

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by Dan Mitchell

When the Center for Freedom and Prosperity released this video back in 2009, we wanted people to understand the link between big government and big corruption.

Simply stated, unethical people are naturally drawn to politics and unethical interest groups naturally seek to obtain unearned wealth (a process known as “rent seeking“).

The obvious takeaway is that making government bigger is going to mean that these unsavory groups will have even greater ability to engage in corruption.

None of this is a surprise to libertarian-oriented people. And it’s definitely not a surprise to the Washington insiders who benefit from this racket.

But it’s always a surprise when left-leaning journalistic outfits accidentally stumble on the truth. As evinced by excerpts from this story from Jonathan O’Connell and Anu Narayanswamy in the Washington Post.

President Biden’s domestic…drew unprecedented attention from Washington lobbyists and special interest groups last year. The lobbying industry had a record year in 2021, taking in $3.7 billion in revenue as companies, associations and other organizations pressed Congress and the Biden administration over trillions of dollars in new pandemic spending and rules… The jump in 2021, when lobbying spending was about 6 percent higher than 2020, came as the government’s pandemic interventions and record expenditure took center stage, including an additional $1.9 trillion in pandemic relief and a $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

Needless to say, the explosion of lobbying is a predictable response to politicians having an additional $3 trillion-plus of other people’s money to distribute to their political supporters.

Not to mention the massive expansion of regulation and red tape, some general and some because of the pandemic.

What worries me is that this expansion will be permanent.

Thousands of companies and organizations appeared to hire lobbyists for the first time during the pandemic, as more than 3,700 companies and other groups that spent no money lobbying the government in 2019 paid lobbyists last year. ..,Among the new entrants are dozens of health-care, technology, tourism and recreation companies, including individual museums, theaters and entertainment firms. …Some of those groups may have hired lobbyists as a temporary measure initially but decided to increase their spending as the pandemic continued, said Dan Auble, an OpenSecrets senior researcher. …“I think it’s likely there are some people who came to Washington a couple of years ago and have stuck around, or industries that realized the benefits they could accrue by having an active presence in Washington.”

I’m somewhat nauseated by “the benefits they could accrue by having an active presence in Washington.”

That phrase is like thieves discussing the benefits they could accrue by having an active presence near ATMs.

But notice that I didn’t write that I was totally nauseated. That’s because lobbying is not inherently unethical. There are groups that feel compelled to hire lobbyists merely because they want to protect themselves from being hurt by high tax rates, pointless red tape, and misguided trade rules.

They simply want to be left alone.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we lived in a society where good people didn’t have to worry about predatory politicians (and a world where bad people didn’t have the ability to steal from others by using government?

P.S. Here’s a good video about how Washington gets fat and happy from corruption. And here’s an amusing video about “Kronies.”

P.P.S. I’ve been accused of corruption and I wasn’t upset. That’s because I realize I’m different than most everyone else in Washington.

P.P.P.S. One of the messages in the above video is that you can’t control corruption merely by passing more laws dealing with issues such as campaign finance.

P.P.P.P.S. At the risk of stating the obvious, corruption in Washington is a bipartisan problem.