Thursday, May 05, 2005

Interest-Group Government

Jacob Weisberg discusses what he calls Interest-Group Conservatism:

In the late 1960s, the great political scientist Theodore Lowi coined the phrase 'interest-group liberalism' to describe an emerging system of government he viewed as untenable. In a classic book, Lowi argued that national policymaking had become theprovince of organized lobbies, which worked to the detriment of the overall public interest and spawned an uncontrollable, amoebalike federal bureaucracy.
. . . . .
In this, the third year that Republicans have controlled everything, a variation on the old interest-group liberalism has emerged as the new governing philosophy. One might have expected that once in command, conservative politicians would work to further reduce Washington's power and bury the model of special-interest-driven government expansion for good. But one would have been wrong. Instead, Republicans have gleefully taken possession of the old liberal spoils system and converted it to their own purposes. The result is the curious government philosophy of interest-group conservatism: the expansion and exploitation of government by people who profess to dislike it.
. . . .
The problem with special-interest conservatives is not that such agenda items violate their greater principles on any given point, any more than the policies promoted by Democratic interests violate liberal principles. Rather, it's that the entire enterprise of running Washington as a special-interest spoils system breeds a bloated, ineffective government . . . .

Mr. Weisberg's observation is no surprise to a fan of Mancur Olson who wrote: The Logic of Collective Action, The Rise and Decline of Nations, and Power and Prosperity.

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