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June 10, 2009

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Not really my area, but aren't some internet content providers like google in favor of net neutrality?

"In other words, these major reforms would (if enacted) challenge the notion that democracies are primarily controlled by narrow interest groups."

Not really. Congress is one of the narrowest interest groups around, and most of the 'reforms' you're talking about represent net transfers of power to Congress, and hence are right in line with the interest it's obsessed about.

"At the same time, the main beneficiaries aren’t as organized, and lack political and lobbying power "

Again, not really, the main beneficiary will be Congress, which is very well organized, and which will benefit immensely from the power transfer enhancing it's revenue via increased bribes and extortion.

Brett - do you only make unsupported assertions? Do you ever offer supporting arguments or reference facts?

Look, if we're talking public choice theory, the central observation of that theory is that regulators and politicians are, themselves, interest groups, out for their own benefit. And as the ones actually making the public policy, it IS going to work for that benefit. You might think, when you get them to enact a policy you want, that your interest has triumphed, but if you look closely, you'll see that they've gotten something out of it.

The main challenge in designing governmental institutions is to make the interests of the people running them align with everybody else, because that's the only way they'll benefit everybody else, too.

This is why, year after year, almost monotonically, the power of government keeps growing. Because it's in the interest of the people running it that they have more power.

Brett's take reduces "Public Choice Theory" to a tautology. If Congress counts as someone whose "interest" may "triumph" in a legislative battle, then by definition Congress will always win ... because it's Congress that passes the law. I, for one, do not see the point of using the term that way.

Well, for once I sort of agree with Brett. One of the main challenges with designing ANY system is to make sure the interests of the people running them align with the interests of everybody else, too.

The whole "free market" thing is supposed to do that, but in many cases, it doesn't.

Of course, when radicals talk about changing "the system" which is the established incentives that make the people in positions of power not share the interests of everybody else, they're dismissed as DFHs, or shrill, or "unrealistic" as if our current set of institutions and systems were handed down carved in stone that's immune to chisels. I think that metaphor sort of broke.

The version of public choice theory Brett proposes is definitely, obviously wrong in both theory and recent history--legislatures do not automatically seek to expand their power. Legislatures seek to avoid responsibility. Those are opposing ends. Thus Congress has shown no interest in oversight of the executive branch. Thus legislators of the opposing party go along with the president to war. Thus Congress delegates decision making authority to various executive branch bureaucrats and creates new a-political decision making bodies like the Fed. Thus Congress has, for the past few decades, pursued deregulation, and resisted the very reforms that Brett accuses them of seeking. (So even if he was right about Congress seeking power now, he fails to explain why Congress didn't do so earlier.)

The individual interests of the legislatures has nothing to do with with the scope of power of Congress as a whole. In fact, if power remains in the hands of corporations and the ultra-wealthy, those people would keep paying individual legislators to make sure it stays that way.

Public choice theory successfully explains everything bad in our government, but nothing that's good. And this is America, this is a democratic government, and there's a lot of stuff that's good in it. PCT is not wrong, but it's very incomplete. In general, any theories explaining human behavior that assume nearly flawless individual rationality are suspect.

I would go with The Wire on this one. Institutions are not going to reform themselves. All this reform talk will slow down soon and we'll hear people say, "wait till after the midterm elections, then we'll take on the interest groups." Then it'll be Obama's reelection campaign, etc.

He said he supported transparency in government, too, so you might want to hold off on chilling the champagne.

I wouldn't say politicians are interest groups but rather they have a job with directly competing interests. Ostensibly their job is to serve their constituency. However, a politician also wants to keep his/her job and wield ever-greater influence. To do this they must get money, have friends with power and move up the ladder in their political party. This motivation is often in direct opposition to the interests of their constituency, or at least to the public at large.

A savvy (unethical?) politician would then simply appear to be working for the best interests of his constituency (e.g. by making a show of a large public works project, providing pork to their district or some such shit) while spooning with interest groups to get the money and influence needed to get re-elected and cow-towing to their party leadership to gain greater influence within the party. The interest public at large is not the primary focus unless the politician is a motivated idealist. Even then, the influence of the special interest groups working against them might nullify their actions. Only when policy reform starts from the top, i.e. the president, is there a possibility of truly taking into account what is in the public's greatest interest. And that certainly doesn't always work either (see Clinton healthcare reform). And presidents are trying to re-elected just like the rest of them.

In short, trying to get a politician to consider what is best for the public when making policy, what one might think is their job, is damn near impossible the way things currently are set up.

"I would go with The Wire on this one. Institutions are not going to reform themselves."

Also, we should have more blog exchanges that go like this.

"The main challenge in designing governmental institutions is to make the interests of the people running them align with everybody else, because that's the only way they'll benefit everybody else, too."

Throw their @sses out. That will get their attention.

Too hard to do? US voter turnout in an off-year congressional election is between 35-40%. In a lot of places, if you're determined to make a difference you probably can.

Too corrupt? Get the money out of it. Everybody hates to hear that, of course, because after all in this country "money is speech".

The Open Secrets lobbying database says that in 2008 $3.27 billion-with-a-b was spent on lobbying, and there were 15,223 registered lobbyists. That's about $6 million and 30 lobbyists per member of Congress.

Want to reduce the corruption, get the money out.

"you might as well drop this "publius" nonsense."

publius can call himself whatever the hell he wants.

"the equivalent to Madison, Jay, and Hamilton all rolled into one"

Um, publius IS half Madison, half Jay and half Hamilton, in addition to being half-amazing.

He transcends your silly temporal concepts of mathematics and fractions. He IS multitudes. And yet, despite his grandeur, reach and potency, he remains approximately 1/2 inch shorter than I.

"Indeed, what’s most interesting – and exciting – about the fight for things like health care reform and cap and trade is that they potentially challenge the more depressing predictions of public choice theory. In other words, these major reforms would (if enacted) challenge the notion that democracies are primarily controlled by narrow interest groups."

IMHO you have failed to establish that net neutrality and cap and trade are not the supported by narrow interest groups. Do you really think that a broad swath of the public is clamoring to pay significantly more for energy as a result of cap and trade?

I'll grant you that health care reform is supported by a broad group.

farber 11:39a
LOL

eric 12:17p
funny

"I'll grant you that health care reform is supported by a broad group."

Until you get into the details, anyway.

Dear Kitty Central: Get the m.f. snakes off this m.f. plane, please.

d'd'd'dave: "Do you really think that a broad swath of the public is clamoring to pay significantly more for energy as a result of cap and trade?"

Publius's post you're responding to: "The benefits of a non-overheating planet are spread widely, and aren’t immediately obvious to the public."

So I'm thinking the answer to your question is "no."

The trolls are just getting weirder and weirder 'round here.

"The trolls are just getting weirder and weirder 'round here."

When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.

Just ignore them, they'll go away soon enough.

Although, if opportunities for outright mockery arise, who could say no?

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