If more money can be made by investing in Washington than by drilling another oil well, money will be spent there. Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek explained the process 40 years ago in his prophetic book The Road to Serfdom: "As the coercive power of the state will alone decide who is to have what, the only power worth having will be a share in the exercise of this directing power."In a graphic on page A6 of the February 13 edition, not available online, the Washington Post reported that “A Washington Post analysis found that more than 90 organizations hired lobbyists to specifically influence provisions of the massive stimulus bill.” The graphic showed that the number of newly registered lobbying clients had peaked on the day after Obama’s inauguration and continued to grow as the bill worked its way through both houses of Congress. More on the frenzied efforts to get a piece of the taxpayers’ money in the spending bill here and here. And the beat goes on: The congressional newspaper The Hill reports, "Lobbyists lining up for shot at climate bill." And that of course is why Patrick Appel reports at the Andrew Sullivan blog that Washington is the hottest city for job-seekers these days. If you want money flowing to the companies with good lobbyists and powerful congressmen, then all these spending and regulatory bills may accomplish something. But we should all recognize that we're taking money out of the competitive, individually directed part of society and turning it over to the politically controlled sector. Politicians rather than consumers will pick winners and losers. Just as important, businesses will devote their time, money, and brainpower to influencing decisions made in Washington rather than to developing better products and delivering them to consumers. The tragedy is that the most important factor in America's economic future -- in raising everyone's standard of living -- is not land, or money, or computers; it's human talent. And an increasing part of the human talent at America's companies is being diverted from productive activity to protecting the company from political predation. With every spending program and every new regulation, the parasite economy sucks in another productive enterprise. Do we really want the best brains at companies from General Motors and General Electric (this quarter's biggest lobbyist) to Google and Goldman Sachs focused on working Washington rather than serving consumers?
Posted on August 4, 2009 Posted to Cato@Liberty
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