Mens næsten alle er ved at falde over hinanden for at beskæftige sig med, hvad Jack Abramoffs fald som super-lobbyist mon kan betyde for Bush og Republikanerne, synes der at være få, der husker på, hvad det egentlig drejer sig om: At en pris, der er værd at have, er en pris, som det er værd at investere i at få. Det er dét, som Gordon Tullock og public choice skolen kalder “rent-seeking”, men som den irske 1800-tals historiker Lord Acton egentlig beskrev mere filosofisk med ordene: “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Jo større og mere regulerende den offentlige sektor er, og jo mere magten til at træffe beslutningerne er koncentrerede på nogle få, desto mere er det sandsynligt, at særinteressegrupper vil forsøge at påvirke beslutningerne på en måde, der gavner de få på bekostning af de mange.
Problemet er jo ikke, at Abramoff og de (mestendels) Republikanere, han har været i “business” med, er specielt meget mere korrupte eller kedelige typer end Demokraterne eller end politikere og lobbyister i det hele taget er flest. Næ, Abramoff var bare bedre til det; hans “K-Street Strategy” var blot det seneste og det mest innovative forsøg, og man skal være meget naiv for ikke at tro, at en kraftig ekspansion af den offentlige sektor, ikke medfører stigende lobbyisme og mere innovative metoder for at sikre sig de “rents”, der kan gafles. Ville Demokraterne have været mindre plagede af lignende sager, hvis de havde kontrolleret kongressen? Det skal man være endog meget naiv for at troeller også have en meget kort hukommelse.
Det er ikke en undskyldning af Abramoff, men det er en uundværlig diagnose, som man skal være opmærksom på, hvis man ønsker at gøre noget ved problemet. Og problemet er her, at man bliver nødt til at have en fundamental mistillid til, hvad staten og den politiske proces repræsenterer.
En af mine absolutte favoritter blandt klummeskribenter, Peggy Noonan, havde torsdag i Wall Street Journals OpinionJournal en virkelig god klumme over netop dén læst:
“The problem with government is that it is run by people, and people are flawed. They are not virtue machines. We are all of us, even the best of us, vulnerable to the call of the low: to greed, conceit, insensitivity, ruthlessness, the desire to show you’re in control, in charge, in command.
If the problem with government is that it is run by people and not, as James Madison put it, angels, the problem with big government is that it is run by a lot of people who are not angels. They can, together and in the aggregate, do much mischief. They can and inevitably will produce a great deal of injustice, corruption and heartlessness.
People in government–people in a huge, sprawling government–often get carried away. And they don’t always even mean to. But they are little tiny parts of a large and overwhelming thing. If government is a steamroller, and that is in good part how I see it, the individuals who work in it are the atoms in the steel. The force of forward motion carries them along. There is inevitably an unaccountability, and in time often an indifference about what the steamroller rolls over. All the busy little atoms are watching each other, competing with each other, winning one for their little cluster. And no one is looking out and being protective of what the steamroller is rolling over–traditions, shared beliefs, individual rights, old assumptions, whatever is being rolled over today.
This is essentially why conservatives of my generation and earlier generations don’t like big government. They don’t even like government. We know we have to have one, that it is necessary, that it can and must do good, that it has real responsibilities that must be met. Madison again, in Federalist 51: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”
These are wise words.
But conservatives are not supposed to like big government. It’s not our job. We’re supposed to like freedom and the rights of the individual. (Individuals aren’t virtue machines either, but they’re less powerful than governments and so generally less damaging.) We’re supposed to be on the side of the grass the steamroller flattens.”
Mon ikke. Og her er så videre en Reaganistas hilsen og “reminder” til Abramoff og K-Street klanen:
“Twenty-five years ago this month the conservative movement came to Washington, and much good came of its arrival. The argument against big government–its big taxing and big regulating, its bias toward a kind of enforced cultural conformity–was made again and again. The growth of government slowed, its demands to some degree beaten back.
The leadership of the Republican Party was now, in its avowed aims if not its daily practices, antigovernment. … The steamroller slowed.
Eleven years ago this month came the Gingrich revolution and the Contract With America. That contract could be boiled down to these words: Stop the Steamroller. Take away its gas, make it smaller, term-limit it. Be on the side of the grass. This movement too did good work–it actually forced upon the federal government a balanced budget–but in the end results were mixed, as political results tend to be. The steamroller rolled on. …
And yet. All other parts of the government grew. The size and force of it grew in ways that were not at all necessary or crucial.
And learning to accept the steamroller, learning to direct the steamroller, learning in fact to love the steamroller, can get you to some bad places. It can get you to Jack Abramoff. To more size, more action, more corruption. To flawed people who are essentially unaccountable and busy winning their own victories for their own cluster. “I got mine. You got yours?”
Political corruption is always more likely when you fall in love with the steamroller. Or if not loving it accepting it, being “realistic” about it, embracing it. … [But it] isn’t good to love the steamroller. In the end it can roll right over you, and all you stand for, or stood for.”
Og netop dét advarede Wall Street Journals politiske redaktør John Fund forleden om: At hele Abramoff-affæren kan få alvorlige konsekvenser for Republikanerne ved midtvejs-valget i 2006, fordi partiet dermed ikke troværdigt vil kunne føre valgkamp på dets traditionelle mærkesager. WSJ’s ledere har konsekvent være negative overfor lobbyisterne og “pork barrel politics”, og fredagens leder tager konsekvensen:
“This week’s plea agreement by “super-lobbyist” Jack Abramoff has Republicans either rushing to return his campaign contributions in an act of cosmetic distancing, accuse Democrats of being equally c
orrupt, or embrace some ne
w “lobbying reform” that would further insulate Members of Congress from political accountability.
Here’s a better strategy:Banish the Abramoff crowd from polite Republican society, and start remembering why you were elected in the first place. …
What’s notable so far about this scandal is the wretchedness of the excess on display, as well as the fact that it involves self-styled “conservatives,” who claimed to want to clean up Washington instead of cleaning up themselves. That some Republicans are just as corruptible as some Democrats won’t surprise students of human nature. But it is an insult to the conservative voters who elected this class of Republicans and expected better.”
Som Noonan afsluttende skriver:
“Is there a way for Republicans to go? Stop trying to fit in. Stop being another atom in the steel. It does no good trying to run a better steamroller. It won’t work. Steamrollers are not your friend.”