In this week's Encyclopedia Britannica column I write:
Headlines this week reported a slight decline in reported expenditures by federal lobbyists. Of course, it would have been hard to keep up the pace set as companies and other interest groups fought to get a piece of the TARP bailout, the massive stimulus bill, the omnibus appropriations bill, the health care bill, and other spending and regulatory bills that passed during the 2008-2010 legislative frenzy.
But don’t worry about the big lobbying firms. They’ll do fine.
I explain why those reports can be misleading, cite Adam Smith and F. A. Hayek and lots of recent news stories, and conclude:
Lobbying is one of the costs—not the worst cost, but certainly a galling one—of a government that is “generous and compassionate,” based on “a progressive vision of our society,” a government that “helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified,” a government that “directs help to the inspired and the effective,” a government that will “restore the security of working families.” If that’s the government you want, then lobbying is an inevitable adjunct. Let’s not forget that analysis from Craig Holman of Public Citizen: “the amount spent on lobbying . . . is related entirely to how much the federal government intervenes in the private economy.”