Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How Big Government Breeds Lobbyists

Dave Weigel shares a classic, underappreciated libertarian insight:

Chopping the air with his hand, bobbing his head like a racehorse, the former senator from North Carolina challenged Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) to turn down donations from lobbyists.

“No more, from this day forward, not a dime from a Washington lobbyist,” Edwards roared. “We do not want their money! Their money is no good to us!”. . . .

But try to imagine a government the size Edward envisions—socialized health care, subsidized college tuition—without lobbyists. New government programs breed lobbyists, and for good reasons. People who might be affected by the new programs want to get into the rooms where those programs are devised. And if money is being doled out, they want a place at the front of the line.

In 1998 the health care industry spent $204 million (in current dollars) on lobbying.

The next year, as both houses of Congress debated a “patient’s bill of rights” for health care, the spending rose to $230 million. In 2003, the year of the vast Medicare Part D expansion, the sum reached $304 million. That surge in spending was meant to ensure that various companies got friendly treatment, or at least benign neglect, under the final bill. But it was also the only way members of a multibillion-dollar industry could influence legislation that would affect them for decades.