Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Big Government Is Big Business

Radley Balko puts together a couple of interesting tidbits. First, you've got this, from Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute, showing that the number of federal subsidy programs has increased by about 25% since 2000. (Edwards notes the irony that there are now 1,776 such programs.)

And then Balko points to this from the Washington Post: an article about how lobbying is a big growth industry. Apparently, the number of lobbyists has nearly doubled since the year 2000, and they are raking in the bucks.

Balko uses this as an excuse to take a shot at Bush and the Republican Congress, and lord knows they deserve it. But, as I noted before in talking about agriculture regulations, the problem isn't bad people in power, or at least isn't just bad people. The problem is structural. The United States has a 13 trillion dollar economy. The federal government spends about 20% of that, and its policies greatly affect the other 80%. Try this experiement someday, if you can get Bill Gates to fund it for you: fill garbage cans with $100 bills and randomly leave them in Central Park. I suspect you won't have to wait long before people start hanging around in the park, trying to be there for your next money drop.

The same is true of the federal government. They have so much money to toss around and their rules and regulations have so much impact on the rest that people would be stupid not to hire lobbyists and influence peddlers. Want to get rid of it? Fine -- reduce the size and scope of the federal government. But, people being people, it's too much to expect that they won't respond to the incentives generated by a massive, intrusive, federal regulatory/welfare state.

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