One of Bruce G's most often used quotes from Adam Smith on the board relates to the notion that when businessmen from the same trade get together, it usually doesn't end well for the public. Likewise, Milton Friedman stated:
"When you have more government, industrialists take it over, and the two together form a coalition against the ordinary worker and the ordinary consumer."
Sandy wants to pile on and states:
What's developed in American government with the influence of wealth should make anyone who claims to be a strict constructionist with regard to constitutional interpretation shudder.
While Smith was writing in a world of mercantilism, his idea and the modern-day equivalent by Milton Freidman is alive and well among we "strict constructionists" and our free-market, limited-government philosophy. Contrary to Bruce seeing Smith's statement as evidence for a claim that more
government is necessary, it is anything but that. Both Smith and Friedman acknowledge that business interests can collaborate against the ordinary citizen, but it does not follow that that this warning is a call for more
government and more
Contrary to what Sandy asserts, there's very good reason for what we "strict constructionists" favor in relation to this matter. We realize that much of the problem could be eliminated by following a strict boundary on the powers of government to manipulate the choices of the American citizen, such as through the tax code or regulatory schemes (such as the EPA, FDA, DoE, etc.). That does not mean no regulation whatsoever
, but if government does not possess broad, almost limitless power - the notion of a "living Constitution" essentially implies limitless power -- to grant favors and protect one company at the expense of another and does not have a big slush fund from which to bestow government largess, then there's far less motivation and reason for the wealthy and corporations to hire lobbyists to obtain that benefit in money or favorable regulatory schemes.
It was some 100 years ago that, in order to accomplish their vision for society, "progressives" ( an almost self-congratulatory name as it implies anything done is automatically better than what previously existed) started to work on accumulating power to themselves and their beloved central government. Now, when that power is redirected, in their view, to benefit those whom they do not like or of whom they do not approve, there are cries of the "death of democracy". However, it was progressives that decided more and more decisions should be made by the elite, the anointed, the Ivy-leaguer types. We regular people couldn't be trusted. We are too stupid, as is exemplified when such people write columns about voters not "voting in their own best interest" when they reject the policies of progressives.It's far easier to try to keep a watch on a small government with few favors to grant than it is to try to implement "ACCOUNTABILITY" for a leviathan with hundreds or thousands of favors to grant and myriads of bureaucrats to grant them.
For instance, look at the United States tax code. It is an insanely complex, ridiculous system of raising revenue. Besides generating HUGE costs to those companies that have to hire lawyers and accountants to comply with it and then pass those costs onto us in the price of their products, it is used far more as a mechanism for social engineering, granting favors to those that behave in a government-approved manner and punishing those that do not. Enormous sums are at stake - and entire professions - to maintain that complexity. As we learn of late, it can even be used to punish those of a different political opinion. Imposing a flat tax or even a progressive income tax with few deductions eliminates the need for lobbyists, lawyers, accountants -- at least in the taxing realm.
Then there are the various administrations and agencies that write regulator rules or provide all sorts of subsidies to business with our money to protect companies or associations from competition, lessen their exposure to risk or keep them from suffering the consequences of their own bureaucratic stupidity (General Motors, this means you):
It's everywhere: catfish
, Export-Import Bank
, Boeing, GE, Caterpillar, John Deere
, sugar producers
, corn growers/ethanol producers
, Christmas trees
, Enron, the Ritz and even Papa John's Pizza
, sports stadiums
, movie productions
, Auto dealers trying to ban Tesla from Georgia
(as they have in at least 5 other states), and even one of the most "holiest" of tax deductions: the mortage interest deduction
(benefiting the well-to-do far more than Joe Average).
You can be attacked by those with money and more connections trying to get government to pass regulations (for the "safety" of the public, of course!!) to protect themselves from the threat you pose to their bottom line whether you run a food truck
, sell caskets
, want to start a taxi service
, operate a cosmotology shop
, braid hair
, arrange flowers in Louisiana
, work as an interior designer
, not be able to accept help form other nations after an oil spill
because of a 1920 law (Jones Act) designed to "protect jobs" in the shipping industry, try something new in on old occupation, such as Uber and Lyft
with their spin on transportation services.
One can often translate "safety of the public" to "protect my business from competition".
Some 250 years ago a bunch of guys got together and figured out that large central governments (and even government in general) had an inherent
tendency to drift toward abuses of power, favoring of the wealthy/powerful and to become tone-deaf to the general citizenry. Thus they viewed government not as "good", but a "necessary evil". Thus, they sought to put constraints on it and attempted to keep as much power as possible close to the people. The specifically wrote that powers not specified
as being given to the central government by the document they drew up were to be retained by the citizens and the states. Then a hundred or so years ago, a bunch of know-it-alls (relative to the unwashed masses) decided that the solutions to the social ills of the day lay not in allowing the citizens to manage their lives, but in having it ordered and provided for by those with the "knowledge" to manage government for the betterment of mankind. Thus we have "progressives".
However, I imagine the "progressive" solution to the problems created by their power accumulation won't be the logical one of returning more decisions of our lives to local or state control or restricting the ability of government to hand out favors, but to attempt to limit the freedoms of the "wrong" people where necessary in order to ensure that only the "right" people or projects obtain favor.NOTE (9/8/14): added Tesla to the list of companies attacked by other corporations seeking to protect themselves from competition
I'm Ed Thompson, and I approve this message.