10.07.2010 2

What’s the Problem With Lobbyists?

By David Bozeman –

They can still play the race card. They can still scare the elderly with threats that Republicans will cut Social Security and Medicare. But for now, with Democratic prospects for the mid-terms growing dimmer by the day, tying Republicans to lobbyists seems to be the defensive weapon of choice.

Television ads in Nevada accuse Sharron Angle of meeting with lobbyists, and, according to a blog in The Hill, Angle will “vote like a bank lobbyist and Wall Street bonus baby.” The architects of the GOP’s recent Pledge to America are linked by bloggers to big oil, pharmaceuticals and the financial sector.

While employed on both sides of the aisle, hurling the L-word is fashionable primarily among liberals. Bill Maher once remarked that politicians should appear publicly in NASCAR-style jumpsuits emblazoned with the logos of their corporate sponsors. It’s so common it’s almost lazy, and liberals expect to prime the voters with just enough awareness that only the GOP’s ties to lobbyists will make headlines and generate outrage.

But the pertinent question remains: does corporate America have any less a right to participate in public affairs than, say, Andy Stern, the former head of the Service Employees International Union, who met frequently with President Obama and who reportedly lobbied the White House? Why are corporate lobbyists evil, but taking money from the NEA, NOW, the environmental lobby and the AARP (and we’re not even scratching the surface here) is almost the civic duty of any prominent Democrat?

Why is legislation favorable to Exxon or Wal-Mart or drug companies necessarily at odds with the “public good”? Democrats must be naive to believe that special interests are corrupting our political process — they have become our political process.

That is the very nature of Big Government. Once we give our leaders consent to stretch government’s role beyond the constitutionally-mandated function of protecting life and liberty, we incite conflict and exacerbate existing tensions between groups of citizens.

Government cannot spread wealth equitably or mandate lifestyle choices down to salt content in our foods or dictate the water content in our toilet bowls without pitting American against American. One interest invariably trumps another, but Big Government always wins, gaining power incrementally until everyone is resigned to the fact that if you can’t beat the system, as corrupt as it is, then you’re going to have to play.

And if you’re going to play, play to win.

Americans have slowly come to reject politics as usual, thus Republicans as well as Democrats have suffered the wrath of voters in the past two years, with more surprises still in store. We realize that lobbyists are just a symptom of a larger disease, that being that the government is too big, and its power should not be worth so much money and effort. No one takes pride in even the appearance of defending corporate lobbyists, but the dirty work of scaling back a behemoth entitlement state entails appealing to reason above class envy and groupthink.

Government works best when its powers are limited to protecting the life and liberty of its citizens. Capitalism, by contrast, thrives with minimal restraint, when its resources aren’t funneled to bureaucrats but rather invested in products and services that make our lives better.

David Bozeman, former Libertarian Party Chairman, is a Liberty Features Syndicated writer for Americans for Limited Government.

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