How To Stop Special Interest Once And For All
How do we fix this problem? The solution many want to employ will most certainly backfire. And the only solution that’ll work, will probably be unpalatable for many.
So, I think we just need to sit down, throw our tantrum, and take our medicine.
Let’s get into it.
What Is “Special Interest”?
Merriam-Webster defines “special interest” as such: “a person or group seeking to influence legislative or government policy to further often narrowly defined interests.”
When we think of special interests, we think of big oil buying politicians to keep environmental laws off their backs…
Or we think about banks lobbying Congress to relax commercial regulations…
Or we think of Jim Wright lobbying to keep Southwest from flying out of Love Field…
We never think of Joe down the street lobbying his Senators to get a tax break.
Though, technically, they are the same thing.
The Corporate Beast
Big corporations lobbying for special privileges makes most people angry, which is understandable.
Normal people can never match the lobbying might of, lets say, Exxon-Mobil.
Which means Monsanto could–potentially–affect laws in ways that are not favorable to us.
So, the question is… how do we stop that??
People often want to jump to a regulatory solution. Which usually looks like imposing regulations on lobbying.
It makes sense at first. But it could have disastrous effects.
Before we can find a real solution to a problem, we need to find the real cause.
If your lawn mower doesn’t start, you don’t immediately turn it over and try to get it going with your hand.
That would be foolish.
You could lose your hand.
You find the cause, address it, and then let the mower function as it should.
Democracy Under Siege
Here’s the bottom line: We can’t legislate how people interact with their representatives.
Think about that.
By regulating lobbying, we are saying, “You can’t address your representative about how you think the government should operate. At least not in a way we don’t like…”
That hammers at the very foundation of our republic.
Lobbying is one of the core pieces of democracy!
Therefore, lobby regulation is not the answer.
And as we discussed in the post on Citizens United, regulation begets regulation.
There are already lobbying regulations in place, but people found ways around them.
So, lets say we made more regulations. Well, it wouldn’t take long for people to find new loopholes. And then we could pass more regulations. But then there’d be new loopholes.
On and on and on it goes, until we wake up one day and realize we’ve slowly given away every piece of political freedom we have.
Now, our new overlords may be benevolent today, but what about tomorrow?
This is not a good solution. As Federalist No. 10 says, “…The remedy of ‘destroying the liberty’ of some factions is ‘worse than the disease.’”
This is not a good solution. Which means we haven’t identified the root of the problem.
“Our new overlords may be benevolent today, but what about tomorrow?”
Guns, Muggers, and Regulations
To help illustrate the REAL problem, lets look at a mugger on the street.
If a mugger approaches you with a gun, you’ll do anything they say.
But, if you’re super rich, you might be tempted to buy the mugger off.
Or, if you’re an evil super rich person, you might pay them off… and then pay them to go and mug someone you don’t like.
And then, other would be muggers realize rich people are paying them to mug people, and they want a piece of the action. So they go out and look for some “work.”
And before you know it, the streets are filled with thieves, paid by a few morally reproachable people to do their bidding.
What is the solution to this problem?
Hire more muggers to fight the muggers? No. That’s a bad idea.
Get rid of the mugger.
It is the same thing with government.
How It All Went Wrong
Our “special interest” problem began when we first tried to use the government to initiate social change.
We had grand ideas on how society should look, and we thought government should make it happen. We should take care of the poor. We need to protect jobs. Etc.
But the government only has one tool in its tool belt: Cooperation by threat of force.
Pay your taxes… or go to jail. Drive the speed limit… or go to jail. Don’t steal from others… or go to jail.
If it didn’t have this power, we’d be in trouble. Do you think criminals would willingly obey laws if they didn’t have to?
No. The government needs this kind of authority. But it is the only authority it has, and its power must be checked.
Therefore, when one group of people says, “I think oil companies should pay higher taxes so we don’t have to pay for college,” the government has to use force–violence–against people to do it.
What have we done? We’ve created a mugger.
From the perspective of the rich, they’re being robbed at gunpoint. A thief has said, “Give me your money.” It doesn’t matter that it might be for a good cause. It is still theft.
So, the rich are justified in their perspective. The government is attempting to mug them.
Therefore, when the mugger approaches said oil companies, many will comply. But some will attempt to pay the mugger off. And a very few will pay the mugger to go after their competition.
Tssk, tssk, tssk.
How To Make “Special Interest” Lose Interest
Is the answer to make the mugger bigger, meaner, and give it more guns? Or make more muggers?
No!! Because the rich will find a new way to pay them off and/or higher them. Then we’d just have a lot of big, mean, scary muggers running around doing whatever “special interest” wanted them to… which is kind of what we have today…
No, the solution is to get rid of the mugger.
But, this requires that we abandon our idea that government should initiate social change.
It requires that we realize society–not government–is responsible for these changes. If we want to help the poor, it means we need to help the poor. We can’t ask Caesar to do it for us.
Charity is only charity if its voluntary. Otherwise it is just a nice word for slavery and theft.
If we take away the regulations and laws that rob people, then we won’t have people paying them off.
“Special interest” will… lose interest. They won’t care.
That doesn’t mean we won’t have laws. And it doesn’t mean people still won’t try to find a way around said laws.
But when laws are limited to the protection of the individual, the kind of corporate lobbying we see today will almost completely vanish. Which means “special interest” lobbying will have little to no impact on our laws.
And then we can focus our governmental efforts on making sure that evil people don’t harm others.
Like I said, for many, this will be a bitter pill.
So, lets throw our tantrum…
Lets realize we need a new vision for how to make the world a better place (one that doesn’t use the government to do it)…
Lets put on our big kid pants…
And lets just take the dang medicine.
We’ll feel a lot better when its over.
About Sean Edwards
Sean Edwards is an author and a communication strategist. He graduated from the Western Washington University with a bachelor’s degree in history. Sean has a passion for discussing philosophy and American politics.