Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What have the Romans ever done for us?

From General interwebs


For the sake of argument, let's set aside the stupid portion of the OWS protesters (including but not limited to "99 percent" culture warriors, fools who took on more debt than they could afford and want bailouts, and victims of the higher-ed bubble collapse who are looking for villains) and the nonideological people who are legitimately hurting in the current economy and are casting about for any promise that it will get better. Amidst the noise, there's one very coherent and rational grievance that's easily rephrased into terms libertarians and tea-party conservatives can agree with: there are megacorporations that use their wealth and connections to distort the free market, and individuals suffer unjustly because of it.

One of the fundamental differences that prevents the Tea Partiers and Occupiers from being allies on that basis is where they think that problem comes from, and what they think the remedy is. The problem with the sane branch of OWS, in my opinion, is that they tend to dismiss the role of government regulation in creating these disturbing ultracorps, and to insist always that the remedy is more government.*

Business regulation will always ultimately benefit the status quo. Overtly, the wealthy and connected will always find ways to influence the lawmaking process, no matter how much you crap on the rights to petition and to free expression in the pursuit of "campaign finance reform". And even if you could achieve that hypothetical ideal of wholly good-intentioned regulation, the cost of compliance with that regulation will always be more easily borne by the companies that are already rich enough to employ teams of lawyers. The more regulatory your system gets, the more it serves to suppress competition and entrench the current big players, and the more likely it becomes that colluding and gaming the system will be more profitable than serving the customer.

The political landscape as it stands has one political party's rhetoric advocating alliance with big business against big government, and the other advocating alliance with big government against big business. The faithful follower of one of these parties sees one of the two enemies, misidentifies the other as a friend, and studiously avoids seeing the two shaking hands behind his back.

[* - And don't get me wrong, this is a nearly symmetrical problem. Mainstream conservatives far too easily discount the extent to which big business works to empower big government for its own advantage.]

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