Monday, January 25, 2010

The Cause of Lobbying

Last week's Supreme Court ruling regarding corporate contributions to political campaigns has statists of all persuasions up in arms. The Chronicle, for example, editorialized:
With this action, the court has effectively undermined the influence of individuals and parties on electoral outcomes, while vastly increasing the clout of business behemoths and their lobbyist representatives to influence and intimidate legislators to support their agendas. If the lawmaker doesn't play ball, he or she can be threatened with an unregulated financial blitz come election time.
This is a classic case of dropping context. The Chronicle conveniently ignores numerous facts as it puts forth another call for more government regulation.

Contrary to the paper's implication, "business behemoths" are nothing more than a collection of individuals. Individuals do not lose their rights when they join together to pursue a common goal. They retain their right to act according to their own judgment without interference from others, so long as they respect the mutual rights of others. This includes donating to political candidates.

The paper fears that this will lead to undue corporate influence over elections, that businesses and their lobbyists will exert pressure on politicians to support legislation and policies favorable to those businesses. This is likely true, but it too drops context.

The paper refuses to question the premise that underlies lobbying. It fails to question a political process that allows--and even encourages--pressure group politics. Instead, the paper argues that some groups--businesses--should not have an "unfair" advantage.

Lobbyists are not a creation of the free market, but of a mixed economy--an economy with a mixture of freedoms and controls. When government has the power to regulate economic activity, individuals will seek to influence that power. When government has the power to arbitrarily dictate the actions of individuals, individuals will seek legislation that is favorable to them.

The logical result is pressure group politics, in which individuals band together to exert influence on legislators. Whether the group is a union, a business, or a special interest, it will claim that the "common good" or "public interest" requires legislation that provides it with special benefits at the expense of those who are not a member of that group. This is true whether the legislation prescribes or proscribes, whether the legislation confers tax benefits, or creates entitlement programs, or attempts to stimulate some industry.

When faced with the alternative of legislation that is beneficial or harmful to their interests, most individuals would prefer legislation that is beneficial. It is morally proper to pursue one's interests, so long as one respects the mutual rights of others to do the same.

Pressure group politics makes this virtually impossible. One never knows when some government edict will dictate or prohibit certain actions. One never knows when his plans and interests will be sacrificed to the "general welfare". The motto of pressure group politics is: Eat or be eaten; sacrifice oneself, or sacrifice others.

The Chronicle does not question the need for sacrifice. It only wants to quibble over the victims. Despite what the Chronicle believes, the real issue is not who should influence politicians, but the purpose of government.

Government's only legitimate purpose is the protection of individual rights--the rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. When government is restricted to this purpose, the motivation to influence politicians does not exist. When government can no longer dispense political favors, lobbyists will disappear.


Mo said...

that was indeed a very good decision. the statists are framing their straw men; "Corporation=Person" and "Money=Speech", much like they did with the ever popular "Health Insurance=Health Care" and "Health care is a right" proposition

Corporations are composed of individuals with rights and these rights are absolute as you said

but i read one libertarian who argued that corporations are legal entities specifically set up via the granting of a state privilege to encourage the pooling of capital in return for limited liability protection.

Brian Phillips said...

Typical for the libertarian to get it wrong. The state doesn't grant privileges to corporations. The limited liability extends to the owners, not the corporation itself.

Mo said...

I wonder though if by spending lots of money on political campaigns, corporations may try to (1) buy influence with politicians and (2) flood the debate with their message and overwhelm the discussion as opposed to the specific views they have.

then again that is what you get in a mixed economy and having to lobby for your interests.

Brian Phillips said...

One of the consequences of altruism and a mixed economy is the view that we must sacrifice for others, or sacrifice others for ourself. So life becomes a battle over who will be the victim and who will be the victimizer.

Mo said...

I actually got a response from that same dude:

The privilege is in setting up the corporation itself which includes limited liability protection for the owners to encourage the pooling of capital.

Brian Phillips said...

The implication is that rights are bestowed upon us by government--there is nothing in reality that gives rise to rights.