Monday, August 13, 2007

Congressional Corruption

One of my students writes in response to my recent post about Congress and corruption:

I share your sentiments Prof. Eubanks, the Actions of Congress can be quite discouraging. However, I do not quite agree that the assumption of rational ignorance is such a final word in the matter. While people’s tastes and preferences are quite consistent, they do have the habit of changing. Take for example people’s taste in sporting events.

In the first half of the twentieth century baseball was the sporting event of choice in the United States. In the years after though, football began to gain prominence until it has become the dominant sport in America. So what does this have to do with the Federal government (beyond monopoly rulings)? I suggest that this is a good example that peoples’ interests can shift and change in intensity. Could it be that Congress takes so much of American’s income because citizens no longer have the same intensity of interest in knowing what Congress spends it on?

Of course this could simply be a consequence of the increasing population; that people have less at stake that they use to. While I don’t deny this probably has an effect, I think that at the margin, the increase in population has little effect. For example if your vote one of five million instead of being one vote in one million would a person’s decision change all that much. I suggest that by the time one’s share in matters reaches the minute size of one millionth other incentives than their control of matters is at issue.

Or let us look at this in another way. We have allocated some of our scarce time in debating the actions of Congress. Have we done this because we believe that Congress will change their ways because they have read what we have to say? As much as I would like to think that our representatives listen to what a few of their constituents have to say, I doubt they do, and am very skeptical that and change would result. I think I can safely say our interest in politics extends beyond swaying political policy. It is this interest that gives me hope that we may one day have a Congress reigned in by the people.

When I hear about the latest spending by Congress I am discouraged, and when I hear others complain about Congress I share their feeling, but when I hear people speak that they will not forget the actions of Congress I am encouraged. We here are debating the actions of Congress, bringing to light those actions that they would rather us not think of come Election Day. We are taking more interest in the actions of the government simply, in my humble opinion, for the satisfaction knowing that Congress is listening to, and following, the will of the people. In this we are not alone, and that gives me courage the Lincoln’s remarks, “of the people, for the people, and by the people” may one day hold true again.

Best Wishes,
DeEon Warner

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