Sunday, June 29, 2014

Prosperous Politics

(Note -- beginning with this post, I'm adopting Bookworm's convention of placing a "snip" between disconnected passages of a cited article, replacing ellipses).

Kevin Williamson writes about the perverse relationship between government and the private sector and how it makes politics an obscenely lucrative profession. Williamson identifies the disturbing phenomenon that mediocre people (I'm being charitable here) -- the Reids, Pelosis, Clintons, Gores, and Obamas -- those who would normally struggle to make a living in the world-at-large, can attain unimaginable wealth, prestige and power, oftentimes on a global scale, by entering and exploiting the badly misnamed domain of "public service", a domain that is exalted by the Left. 

A number of innovative technology firms, including Uber, Lyft, and AirBNB, are under attack from entrenched, politically connected economic interests. Uber and Lyft threaten the privileges of politically protected taxi cartels and the unions attached to them, while AirBNB subverts the traditional hotel arrangement. Each of those services takes something that it is perfectly legal to do for free — allowing a traveler to use your home temporarily, giving somebody a lift to the airport — and allows people to do them for money. (Here one is reminded of George Carlin’s argument for the legalization of prostitution: “Selling is legal. F****** is legal. Why isn’t selling f****** legal?” There are a great many reasons for that, none of which apply to charging a fee for car service.) Which is to say, these services allow ordinary people to generate revenue by making the most out of otherwise underutilized assets, a possibility that is of non-trivial concern as participation in the work force plunges.

Uber, AirBNB, et al. are very popular with consumers and producers alike. In fact, that is the reason that politicians and the entrenched economic interests in whose service they operate are dedicated to destroying them: Nobody would worry about Uber if so many consumers did not judge it preferable to traditional cartel-run taxi services. The very fact that Uber is in the judgment of many consumers a better product is what provides the motive for destroying it. That is economic, intellectual, and moral perversion, but that is how politics operates. Its mandate is to stand between consumers and producers until it gets its cut.
On the one hand, we have Category A, comprising products and services that people willingly — eagerly — embrace, which provide better goods at better prices. (It doesn’t matter if you think that’s true; economic values are subjective, and consumers like what they like.) On the other hand, we have Category B, comprising products and services that cannot earn revenue on their own, and that pay their employees and executives inflated salaries out of money collected at gunpoint through the tax system. What is most perverse about this arrangement is that the firms in Category A are obliged to ask the parasites in Category B for permission to engage in commerce. In any rational society, something close to the reverse would be the case, and those entrusted with the management of our common affairs would look to the most productive and innovative firms and thinkers for guidance in how to go about managing the public business. In a rational society, the powers that be in New York City, San Francisco, and Seattle would be bringing notebooks to their meetings with technology entrepreneurs instead of whips and palms eager to be crossed with payoffs.
It is baffling that my progressive friends lament the influence of so-called big money on government while at the same time proposing to expand the very scope and scale of that government that makes influencing it such a good investment.
You can be an anti-elite crusader on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised from your million-dollar mansion, even if you never find yourself so much as downwind from a poor person, without fearing charges of hypocrisy: Ask Senator Warren. Of course Chelsea Clinton does not have the sense or the good taste to be embarrassed when talking about her blasĂ© attitude toward money: Money is invisible to her for the same reason that water is invisible to a fish — she’d notice it if it weren’t there, and flap like a desperate landed mackerel until she’d secured her next big payday.

No comments:

Post a Comment