From: email@example.com(Steven B. Harris)
Subject: Lobbying and Econ 101 (Re: Food irradiation -- yea or nay?)
Date: 1 Apr 1999 13:47:31 GMT
In <firstname.lastname@example.org> email@example.com (Martin E. Lewitt)
>Steven B. Harris wrote:
>The food giants have only the amount of control the public gives
>them. It's a representative democracy, after all.
To which somebody replied in standard liberal fashion:
> To not include the power and importance of campaign
contributions in this analysis is missing the most crucial
element. Politicians make the rules. Politicians like to be
re-elected. It takes money to persuade people to like
you enough to vote for you (and enough money will almost
guarantee re-election no matter how badly a politician has
screwed his/her constituents). Corporations and big industry can
give the money needed. They don't give money away without
expecting something in return. Politicians know this and
oblige. Thus if you are in the USA, you get the US Dept of
Agriculture (USDA) coming up with organic standards that complet-
ely ignore the conclusions of the Organic Standards board that
the USDA, by law, was supposed to follow and instead come up with
regulations not mentioned by the Organic Standards board
that are favorable to the industries adversely affected by strong
organic labeling laws. Why? Campaign contributions. One of
about hundred examples I and lots of other folks could come up
with in about ten minutes.<
To which Martin L., the poster who begins this message added:
>>The very reason regulations exist is to soak corporations for
campaign contributions. Even opponents of regulation hold
hearings to remind their constituents that the threat of regulat-
ion is there. Deregulation alone is not the solution, because the
threat of re-regulation would always be there. You would have to
have a constitutional amendment preventing regulation. You won't
get a bipartisan consensus for your kind of campaign finance
reform (I am presuming you hope to solve the problem with more
regulation) though until you address the most corrupt practice of
all, the buying of votes with tax payer money, by promising
higher entitlement benefits.
None of this would be needed if we just elected true statesmen,
instead we elected people of poor character and are now in this
Now my comment:
Has it occurred to you people that democracy when it controls
all property has a little problem? The problem happens when the
public decides that it can simply take whatever it wants from
people who have more money, and give it to people with less.
This tends to happen quite naturally in societies with little
feeling for property rights. So the guy earned that house on the
hill. It's too nice, and I don't like him up there. Let's tax
him some more. Look at that rich corporation. Surely they have
WAY too much money. Let's really soak them and buy new roads and
schools and other nice stuff for us and our kids.
Alas, what is being forgotten in this equation is that you
don't make more money by moving it from here to there. In fact,
you lose money that way, since it's not very efficient to
transfer money from person X to person Y without a reason which
benefits them both (as happens when they trade). So taxation for
social equality reasons just ends up screwing things up. The
government has no money of its own. The "corporations" have
money, but they get it the old fashioned way. They have no guns
and no jails. Bill Gates does not come to your house with
weapons and make you buy a copy of Windoze 98 or whatever.
Whatever money Bill has, a bunch of people gave him of their own
free will, because even though they curse his product, they found
for one reason or another they needed it. They COULD have bought
WARP OS2 or something, but they didn't. They can give you 10
conspiracy related reasons why not. But they didn't, and that's
the long and short of it. It's always nice to believe that Bill
contributed so much to the Clinton campaign or his local Senate
campaign that laws were passed to regulate IBM or Netscape or
Apple or Oracle or whoever wanted to compete with Microsoft.
Except that history shows that isn't what happened.
Gates got rich for the same reason that most people do: he
wasn't a genius but he was plenty smart enough. More importantly
he worked like hell and he took advantage of opportunities that
arose due to other people's incredible stupidity. When the guys
from IBM long ago showed up at one important guy's house to ask
if he'd write software for their new PC, he sicked his lawyers on
them with so much suspicion that they finally went away. At last
they got to lowly Bill, and he lied and said he already had the
thing almost done. Then he went and found somebody who did have
it almost done, but didn't know what to do with it, and bought
it. And was nice to IBM and cooperative. For which they were
grateful and did business with him. And not because he bought
your government with campaign contributions. Recognizing value
when others don't, is how it works. If you fumble the future by
inventing something neat, and then don't do anything with it,
like Xerox once did, eventually somebody else is going to market
it FOR you. So Jobs stole GUIs from Xerox and Gates stole them
from Jobs and then he sold them to you and you bought them, and
that's where he got his money. The Feds had nothing at all to do
with it. Your stupidity did. And a lot of other people's.
Xerox never would have sold them to you. You didn't invent them
for yourself either, did you? But you resent like hell that you
have them, and Gates has your bucks. Even though he did you and
a lot other people a tremendous favor thereby.
The natural state of an economy is free trade, if only
government prevents active theft by fraud or force. Free trade
literally generates wealth out of nothing, because people trade
things they have for things they want more, and this can be
possible for both sides in a trade. And money is just an index
of how badly you want something. If two people trade things they
want less to each other for things each of them wants more, then
"money" (or rather, wealth, which is symbolized by money easily
enough) is generated literally out of thin air. But governments
do not do this. The best government can do is encourage trade.
Trade is what does makes wealth. Specialization. What those
nasty corporations (which hire lots of workers who can then buy
houses and raise families) do. The economists even talk about
Ricardo's law of comparative advantage, which is an educated way
of saying that it's stupid for a heart surgeon to change the oil
in his own car. He does a bad job of it and gets oil in your
city drains. And the guy at Q-lube who does it better and
faster, is really bad at doing coronary bypass. That is how
wealth happens-- when people do their jobs well and trade.
Taxation (which puts a tax on trade, almost by definition), and
government regulation, tends mostly to INTERFERE with that
It may never have occurred to some of you that "lobbying" is
only industry's way of letting the politicians know when they're
doing a particularly stupid thing to interfere with trade.
Democracy works best not when one man gets one vote and there's
no campaigning. A vote on an issue that will cost you your job
is not the same as a vote on an issue which will make no
difference in your life. So how do people compensate for this
problem, when some issues are more important than others? The
Liberal answer is that they organize and donate their time.
Protest and run around with signs and maybe even do sit ins and
some mild civil unrest and disobedience. But observe Ricardo's
law of comparative advantage. Why should the heart surgeon
donate his time to answering phones at campaign headquarters or
carrying a sign to save trees? Or even a sign to prevent a
stupid hospital or medicare regulation that will make heart
surgery twice as difficult and costly to do (some of which cost
ultimately gets passed to SOMEBODY, since you can bet that if the
heart surgeon has to absorb it all, he's going to spend more time
home changing his oil, which is a lot less stressful than what he
usually does). Somebody else can campaign for against that law
who's better at it. For an hour of the surgeon's time, 10 of
them can. If he trades them for it. That's called sending
money. Otherwise known as campaign contributions. And companies
which employ people do it, too. This is how the economy lets
politicians know when they're about to destroy a little part of
it, with some silly-ass law. It works better than writing a
letter. And it's necessary to any free-trade economy which hopes
to retain a shred of efficiency.
Somebody says this wouldn't be necessary if we just had
STATESMEN making laws. Horsemanure. It will be necessary until
we have omniscient Gods making laws. In the real world a politi-
cian cannot possibly understand the complexities of an economy,
or the effect some law he's about to pass will have on everyone
doing everything to make a living. The feedback from bad and
stupid laws must of necessary must be proportional to the
negative economic impact which they have. To have it otherwise
is madness. And that's how we got to where we are.
From: firstname.lastname@example.org(Steven B. Harris)
Subject: Re: Lobbying and Econ 101 (Re: Food irradiation -- yea or nay?)
Date: 5 Apr 1999 06:36:44 GMT
In <37046DF6.4D64AB0A@ix.netcom.com> email@example.com writes:
>My point in my prior post was very simple: campaign contributions
>distorts government decision making and these decisions can affect
>nutrition and the safety of the food. That was it.
And perhaps my response was overly complicated. Campaign
contributions mirror the economic interests that stand for and against
laws. Since it's generally a really bad idea to pass laws that have
bad economic impact, such contributions are quite helpful to opening
congress' eyes about what they're doing and who they're hurting. That
multibillion dollar corporation, remember, has a multibillion dollar
PAYROLL. The folks on it are getting hit by that law, too. They don't
feel a little change in stock price-- what they feel is getting laid
off. That really hurts. So how to you decide how many jobs this patch
of timber is worth? Save this fish or feed these people's families?
I don't know of any good way to decide these things but the way we do
it. If society is deciding about YOUR job, you certainly don't want it
done democratically. Hell, it's not their job that's on the line.
They'll vote you out on the street in a heartbeat if they think what
you do even has chance of inconveniencing them. And why shouldn't
they? It's no skin of their nose. You talk of the distortion caused
by campaign contributions, but what about the distortion of democracy
itself? If your industry generates a chemical that causes my chance of
getting cancer to go up one in a billion, why shouldn't I vote to make
it illegal? After all, I don't work for it.
>we need government
>to make rules when it is in society's interest such as (to keep it
>germane to this ng) limits on the amount of pesticides on our food and
>the types of pesticides that can be sprayed on crops so that people are
>not poisoned and so that the runoff of the pesticides into the
>surrounding water doesn't pollute the water source which the local
>population and animals need to survive.
If only it were that simple. If we wanted to do all that, we
wouldn't LIMIT the amount of pesticides, we'd ban them entirely. Now,
you don't suggest that. Why not? Obviously, there are tradeoffs
involved. What mechanism is there to educate congress to those
tradeoffs? Do 5 million people write in because zucchini prices went
up 2cents a pound? So why not bad that particular zucchini saving
chemical. Nobody (literally) will complain. Except the zucchini
farmers. It's that way with everything. Individually, without a
lobby, most economic activities are in about the same position of an
employee without a union. Left to itself, the general public will
outlaw nearly everything that is even vaguely threatening, if they
don't have an uncle or a cousin or somebody who works in the business,
or don't benefit from it directly (or think they don't).
>When a person or corporation can distort the rules that govt officials
>would naturally implement (in this case, reasonable limits on
>use) so that unreasonable rules are implemented (such as allowing
>excessive unsafe levels of pesticide use) by politicians only because
>the politicians were given large amounts of money, we have a broken
>system. That's it.
That's not it. There is no such thing as "safe" level of pesticide
use. Therefore all levels are unsafe. The question is how much
unsafety do we allow to keep food prices down? Knowing that
malnutrition is unsafe also? And that's just the easy part. What
about democracy when it comes to safety vs fun? Motorcycles are
unsafe. Why not ban them entirely? Riding without a helmet is unsafe
(assuming you don't ban motocycles entirely). Why not make that
illegal? And so on. Shotguns are unsafe. Rifles are unsafe. Pistols
and handgrenades and flamethrowers and nuclear weapons and steak knives
are unsafe. Automobiles are unsafe. Nearly all drugs are unsafe.
Alcohol and tobacco are unsafe. Sex is unsafe. If the general public
doesn't do it, they're going to want to regulate it. Or criminalize
it. What stops this? Without lobbies, generally nothing stops it.
>I didn't mention wealth redistribution, free trade,
>limits on what people should be able to make, Bill Gates or any of the
>other straw arguments you responded to. Please, if you are going to
>respond, argue what I have written and the thoughts contained in those
>words by quoting the exact words you want to respond to.
Okay. See above. In your next post if you will avoid using concepts
like "safe" and "unsafe," that will help. It will let me know I live
in the same universe you do.
>A person whether he works for him/herself or a corporation can lobby
>like anyone else and that is by using the power of free speech instead
>of legal bribery to get politicians to see his/her point and act
What's the difference in working to get the politician you like
elected, vs contributing your money (which you got by doing other work)
for the same purpose?
>> Democracy works best not when one man gets one vote and there's
>> no campaigning.
>Nothing wrong with campaigning. Campaigning is just a way of persuading
>people to agree with your position. It's called free speech. Want to
>limit free speech?
No, do you?
>> A vote on an issue that will cost you your job
>> is not the same as a vote on an issue which will make no
>> difference in your life. So how do people compensate for this
>> problem, when some issues are more important than others?
>Simple. By taking a greater interest in some issues than others and
>working harder to make your voice heard (such as by talking to people,
>calling and writing your congresspersons, etc) on those issues more
>important to you.
Or sending money. Your time or your money. It's the same thing.
>> Liberal answer is that they organize and donate their time.
>> Protest and run around with signs and maybe even do sit ins and
>> some mild civil unrest and disobedience.
>Nothing wrong with this. It's that free speech thing in the
>Constitution (if you are in the United States). Bribing politicians is
>undoubtedly more effective and easier, but it's not a good way to make
>laws as bribery is not a real logical way to tackle a problem.
>> But observe Ricardo's
>> law of comparative advantage. Why should the heart surgeon
>> donate his time to answering phones at campaign headquarters or
>> carrying a sign to save trees?
>> (snip) Somebody else can campaign for against that law
>> who's better at it. For an hour of the surgeon's time, 10 of
>> them can. If he trades them for it. That's called sending
>> money. Otherwise known as campaign contributions.
>There's a leap in your logic. The surgeon can pay ten people to do what
>he would be doing and these ten can then call their congresspersons so
>that the surgeon's voice has been multiplied by ten. This would
>certainly be more effective in getting the politician to address the
>issue than the physician's voice alone. Okay fine. The politician can
>then decide if this is really ten different people who all are
>interested in the issue or if ten people are being paid to act
>interested and then go from there. But whatever conclusion the
>politician comes about the efforts of those ten people, he is *not*
So you see a difference between donating money to a congressman, vs
an organization trying to get the congressman re-elected, because they
like his/her views?
>Campaign contributions *are* a form of bribery since the
>effect on the politician is not based on logical arguments but based on
>pleasing the politician with favors.
It's just as pleasing when the congressmen has people working on
his behalf by themselves, as if he has to pay them from his campaign
money. It's all the same.
> "Here I'll pay to get you elected
>in exchange for you passing laws beneficial to me."
Here, I'll work for your campaign, or donate to those working to get
you elected, if I like the laws you pass. Sounds like democracy to me.
>hiring your own politicians to make the rules beneficial to you.
That sounds like democracy also. You'd be a fool to work to get
congressmen elected who made rules NOT beneficial to you.
>A very undemocratic practice.
On the contrary. It is the essense of democracy.
>> And companies
>> which employ people do it, too. This is how the economy lets
>> politicians know when they're about to destroy a little part of
>> it, with some silly-ass law.
>Politicians are held accountable by voters. If they screw up the
>economy or anything else badly enough, the voters will not vote for
>them and they are thrown out of office.
Not unless they are informed of what happened. Which takes money.
>The "economy" is a process and if a
>law is going to be bad for the economy, then the politician who passes
>it will be held accountable for his actions. About that last statement
>of yours: the politician is interested in a strong economy like most
>everyone, but his campaign contribution's purpose is to help the
>interests of his company, not to help the economy. They may be one and
>the same, then again they may not.
On average, of course, they are. If there are more companies with
larger payrolls on one politician's side the other's what do you think
>Bribing politicians is necessary for an economy?!! That's ridiculous.
>Doing what makes sense (using logic) by politicians whose actions can
>affect an economy will be best for the longterm health of an economy.
>We have brains. Politicians have brains so they should use them by
>doing what makes sense instead of being paid off to not use their
>brains and instead be puppets to those stuffing their pockets with
Politicians are not economists. You cannot calculate what effect
your proposed law is going to have on all your constituents by using
your "sense" or your "brain." You'd have to be God. In the real
world, you can only judge by the amount of screaming. Which comes in
proportion to economic damage, if lobbying drives it. Otherwise, not.
>> (snip) In the real world a politi-
>> cian cannot possibly understand the complexities of an economy,
>A knowledgeable one will have a good idea of how certain forces (higher
>prices, higher taxes, interest rates, supply of money, etc) will affect
>the economy and act accordingly.
Really, this is so silly I'm not going to even bother to reply.
You'd make a great Communist.
>No one wants bad laws but politicians are representatives of the people
>(they are supposed to be anyway) so they will (or should) be held
>accountable for their decisions so that is the proper feedback mechanism
>which is why democracy works.
What feedback mechanism is that? If some law makes the price of the
car you buy go up by $20, how are you going to know that? If that
happens to a million people a year, do you think any of them is going
to write a letter to congress? They didn't even do that for airbags,
which caused the cost to go up $500 or more. Now, multiply this by a
thousand stupid regulations, each of which causes the cost of
everything you buy to go up just a bit, and you begin to see the
problem. How many letters did YOU write last year?
>Decision making by politicians based on campaign contributions is an
>inherently nondemocratic system because the politician no longer acts in
>the interest of his constituents, but in the interest of those paying him
That is, his constitents. Those who are at the nexis of the effect
of the laws. The consumer doesn't see the effect of a law which makes
toothpaste cost a penny extra. The toothpaste manufacturer, however,
sees millions down the drain. Where do you suppose the feedback is
going to come from?
>No. People (politicians) that are nothing more than puppets of whoever
>gives them the most money is madness as it's inherently nondemocratic and
>is a system not built on logic but on bribery. That's madness. It also
>will eventually collapse like all nondemocratic forms of government
All forms of democracy involve just what you describe. They haven't