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Why Special Interests Try to Take Control of Governments

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Tags Cronyism and CorporatismPolitical Theory

01/31/2018

George Monbiot, popular Guardian columnist, beacon light of global environmentalism, is also the kind of progressive who insists on seeing the world as he wishes it were and not as it really is. Wearing these kind of blinders will not help us get a better environment or better world.

In his latest column, Monbiot states that: “The forces that threaten to destroy our wellbeing are… the same everywhere: primarily the lobbying power of big business and big money, which perceive the administrative state as an impediment to their immediate interests.”

This is nonsense. Big business and big money, along with other special interests, such as Big labor and Big law and Big education, and all the other “ Bigs” absolutely love the “administrative state” because they have learned how to control it and use it for their own self-interest.

This is the “ progressive paradox” that Monbiot resolutely ignores: the more the state increases its powers over the economy, the more motivated special interests become to take control of the state in order to thwart genuine market competition. The resulting corruption just gets worse and worse.

Has Monbiot ever considered what persuaded enough voters to hold their noses and choose Trump? It was not that the administrative state provided honest government under the prior administration. Nor was the prior administration making any effort to hold back the power of special interests in Washington.

Two examples will suffice. In the “fiscal cliff” bill, President Obama achieved his long sought objective of increasing taxes on the rich. But in the same bill, passed at midnight, he snuck in subsidies for his own corporate supporters. These subsidies added up to more money than the additional taxes on the rich could possibly generate. In total, taxes on the rich did not really go up. It is just that some money was extracted from some rich people and more was given to others. The green energy subsidies in the Stimulus Bill were similar; they went largely to campaign donors.

Monbiot does not trouble himself with any of this. In his worldview, more government is always better and always better for the environment. What he does not consider is that if progressives had delivered honest government for the past few decades of economic and environmental bubble and bust, Trump would never have been elected, and the particular special interests cheering his dismantlement of environmental protections would never have seized control of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Monbiot even manages to work in a condemnation of Brexit in his article. In his view, Britain leaving the EU will make it more difficult to solve its environmental challenges. But, again, this ignores what led to Brexit. It was the dismantlement of European democratic control of government, along with the deep corruption of the bureaucrats in Brussels, who have for years been selling their flood of minute regulations to the highest special interest bidder, which led to a slight majority of the British people throwing up their hands in disgust and passing Brexit.

Progressives as a group cannot fix a problem they refuse to acknowledge. Monbiot is far from alone in his refusal to face facts.

Hunter Lewis is author of eleven books, including Economics in Three Lessons & One Hundred Economic Laws, Where Keynes Went Wrong, and Crony Capitalism in America 2008-2012, and has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Times of London, The Atlantic and many other magazines and web sites including Mises.org and LewRockwell.com. Lewis is also co-founder of Against Crony Capitalism.org as well as co-founder and former CEO of Cambridge Associates, a global investment firm. He has served on boards and committees of fifteen not-for-profit organizations, including environmental, teaching, research, and cultural organizations, as well as the World Bank.

Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.
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