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SockMarket (34.15)

Government Isn't Evil, or Stupid. Just Corrupt

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May 19, 2010 – Comments (21)

We have all heard of the conspiracy theories: New World Order, 911, etc., etc., etc. We have all heard the line: government is out to get you. We have all heard that government is just plain stupid, and can't do their jobs because they don't know how.

The latter can sometimes be the case (enter Dan Quayle), and I don't think that you can rule it out, especially with some 540 important people in congress and the executive branch. But I don't think that it is true overall, as I'll explain below. As for the former, I won't deny that it is theoretically possible, but the chances of everyone, or the majority of office holders being the sadistic type of people who would come murder you (or your rights) in your sleep I seriously doubt.

Rather I subscribe to another theory, one put forward by an AP Government test prep book I read a couple years back. It goes like this:


Congress does what is right, except when lobbying convinces them to do otherwise. Not that what is "right" in their mind is always what is best, everyone makes mistakes, and they certainly make as many as we do, but it is frequently beneficial to us.

My rationale (not the book’s) is below:

People run for office because they want the job, and the money that accompanies it. Since they must, generally, be able to head a campaign and speak well in public they are relatively intelligent individuals. Not geniuses, but likely they are at least average. Naturally some morons manage to sneak in, but this is not a common occurrence.

A motive for running is rarely, or never, to control the world. If it does occur it is an anomaly, not the rule. Usually people can pick up the seedy sort of people who are power hungry and vote them down. Power can corrupt, but when checks and balances are in place and there are so many others involved in the creation of law and policy it is rare that this power goes to anyone's head.

Most of us can be bought. If you were a Steeler fan (which I am) and someone came along and offered you $100 to root for the Giants for one game you would be hard pressed to find someone who will turn down that offer, unless it were the Super Bowl. However, in the absence of any money the Steeler fan will surely be rooting for the black 'n gold.

Congressmen are no different; a free addition to their house, a nice little check, and promises of campaign funds are pretty effective tools in persuading them to root (vote) for one position on a bill over the other. Occasionally, when they feel the legislation is important enough, they tell lobbyists to go take a hike, but this is not frequent.

That said, in the absence of lobbying, congressmen (and women) want to get re-elected, and as such attempt to help those within their jurisdiction, and nationally.

 

I will not be surprised to see a whole bunch of comments calling me naive, but if you believe that to be the case please provide some examples to back yourself up. And please get them from a mainstream news/info source! 

21 Comments – Post Your Own

#1) On May 19, 2010 at 6:38 PM, topsecret09 (85.02) wrote:

I vote for all of the above....   TS

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#2) On May 19, 2010 at 7:00 PM, RonChapmanJr (29.89) wrote:

You've seen people conspire for small things haven't you? 

People at work conspiring against management. 

Students conspiring against teachers. 

Contestants on reality TV conspiring to win. 

If you honestly believe that government/business do not conspire in an attempt to gain trillions of dollars and virtually unlimited power, then all I can say is, "good luck with that".

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#3) On May 19, 2010 at 7:06 PM, chk999 (99.97) wrote:

Sorry, but I have to go for Evil, Corrupt and Stupid with a side order of self serving.

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#4) On May 19, 2010 at 7:09 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

TS,

thanks. i am glad another smart person agrees with me.

 

ron,

I have never seen people conspiring against management, mostly because I am still a student. As for conspiracy against a teacher that only happens when the teacher brings it upon themselves with seriously repressive measures--and in my experience it has never been an unspoken and unplanned situation where one person makes a stand and everyone joins them.

as for your conspiracy theory: the government has virtually unlimited power now, except that which the constitution restricts them from having. They don't need more.

As for conspiring for profits, there is no reason that the corporations need to give government a cut, if they can get favorable legislation passed on a consistent basis. Remember a corporation's goal is to make money, not control the world.

Here is a virtual hat for you (this is meant in good humor and I hope you take it as such):

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#5) On May 19, 2010 at 7:10 PM, starbucks4ever (88.00) wrote:

They have some tradable positions and also some core positions that are not tradable. 

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#6) On May 19, 2010 at 7:12 PM, brickcityman (< 20) wrote:

Its simply all about self-serving actions.....

 

I look at this way...

 

Self serving actions on a level playing field yield markets...

Self serving actions when it comes to making rules yields that which can alternatively be labelled Evil, Corrupt, or Stupid.

 

It all comes down to the fact that you need to approach rule making differently than you need to approach business and interpersonal decisions.

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#7) On May 19, 2010 at 7:12 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

chk,

lol. I'll take your second entre and the side order, please

 

zloj,

?

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#8) On May 19, 2010 at 7:37 PM, blesto (31.74) wrote:

As a Steeler fan that's selling out pretty cheap! It would have to be at least in the 4 digit range for a Steeler fan I'd think.

As for government being corrupt;

I like George Washington's definition of government,

"Government, it is not reason,

 it is not eloquence.

 It is force,

 and like fire is a useful servant and fearful master."

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#9) On May 19, 2010 at 7:58 PM, ChrisGraley (28.64) wrote:

Evil, corrupt, stupid, self-serving, and immoral.

And apologies to the Steeler fans, but that goes for your QB too! 

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#10) On May 19, 2010 at 7:58 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

Another Steelers fan!!! I really shouldn't have used them in the example but they were the first team that came to mind (obviously). My personal hope is for Dixon to start but we will have to see.

that is an excellent quote. Washington was a sharp fellow

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#11) On May 19, 2010 at 8:02 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

chris,

Ben got what he deserved. after all he (probably) raped two girls and has acted like a jacka$$ off the field. If karma plays out he will get hit on his bike again (not that I would wish that on anyone).

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#12) On May 19, 2010 at 8:16 PM, neskolf2 (86.02) wrote:

daniel-

It's obvious that you've put thought into your intial post, and I wouldn't call you naive.  However, I would argue that this contention.....

A motive for running is rarely, or never, to control the world. If it does occur it is an anomaly, not the rule. Usually people can pick up the seedy sort of people who are power hungry and vote them down. Power can corrupt, but when checks and balances are in place and there are so many others involved in the creation of law and policy it is rare that this power goes to anyone's head 

...is incorrect.

You're correct in that no one in their right mind runs for office for the money (taking out the bribery factor, there are boatloads more of it to be made in the public sector.  They run for office in order to wield influence.  Whether they want to be the influencing agent themselves or to act as a proxy for those who have bankrolled their election, they are seeking the power that the office they've run for places in their hands. 

There are certainly those who run with the best of intentions; who feel that they want to make a positive difference in the lives of their constituents and in their communities.  But even these well intentioned souls are seeking to do so through influence (i.e. power).  And while they may not be looking to literally control the world, their motives for seeking office are but a scaled down version of that aim. 

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#13) On May 19, 2010 at 8:26 PM, ChrisGraley (28.64) wrote:

I totally agree daniel. I wish they would have cut him, but understand why they didn't.

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#14) On May 19, 2010 at 9:20 PM, blesto (31.74) wrote:

Disclosure: I'm a Jaguars season ticket holder.

But I have a sincere respect and fascination for the Steelers and their fans.

It really started at a Jaguars home game hosting the Steelers. It was the year the Steelers went to the Super Bowl with Jerome Bettis on his last hurrah. I was at gate 2 getting ready to open and I was completely surrounded by nothing but Steeler fans. In homage to Jerome(The Bus)Bettis, someone started singing ♪ The Wheels on The Bus Go Round and Round ♫

and then everybody started singing it and it continued for 10 or more minutes. Imagine a bunch of grown, rowdy(and a little bit drunk) men in Steeler jerseys singing. Some good times and a great game that night, even though the Steelers won.

My favorite quote from former Head Coach Chuck Noll, especially used for overzealous reporters and I use it often when making investment decisions is "You think you know, but you don't know."

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#15) On May 19, 2010 at 9:35 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

nes,

I can see what you are saying, but I think that may be a bit off target. I suspect that people are attracted by the $250K in base salary +$500K more they can "earn" in lobbying. I suspect that is the major incentive. In state legislatures it is a different story, but I suspect the federal spots are mainly sought for money.

chris,

yeah. I personally wouldn't have shed a tear if they traded him for a 3rd round pick.

 

blesto,

Well I am near Denver. I can't afford to be a season ticket holder but if I could I would very much like to be. 

I started liking them in 03-04 (?) when they had their last losing season before the 2005 super bowl. I was looking for a hard nosed team that actually tried (as oppose to the Broncos, who were playing a weak form of football). I get alot of raised eyebrows with this story, but that is it.

that is a great story and nice tie in with investing.

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#16) On May 19, 2010 at 10:54 PM, whereaminow (< 20) wrote:

daniel,

good blog.

It's not "government" - that's really a short cut way of saying "coercive control."  We can use force and violence to get people to do what we want without government.  It's still evil.  What government is, what it really is when you get down to it is "a comparative advantage in force and violence" within a geographic area.

So when the government flexes, the result is usually pretty evil.  Simply put, people in govenrment would not be able to get away with most of the things they do if they did not have this comparative advantage.

The scary thing is, as this advantage grows, the government begins to attract the very people that want to use it.  That has been the path to totalitarianism in other countries.

Just some food for thought.

Go Bears! (Yes, we suck.)

David in Liberty

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#17) On May 19, 2010 at 11:05 PM, kstarich (28.98) wrote:

Dan

Good post...except that you must consider the possibility that the real power, unfortunatelly is in the hands of people who are not elected and cannot be removed.

Go Packers!!!  Sorry I had to throw that in.

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#18) On May 19, 2010 at 11:50 PM, russiangambit (28.90) wrote:

> People run for office because they want the job, and the money that accompanies it. Since they must, generally, be able to head a campaign and speak well in public they are relatively intelligent individuals. Not geniuses, but likely they are at least average. Naturally some morons manage to sneak in, but this is not a common occurrence.

Some people have a "power hungry" gene. You often see it in police officers, security guards and politicians.

Some people are good speakers but not much else, these also end up as politicians.

It is about the power and control. If you don't have the gene, it is really hard to understand the motivation. But for this kind of people the siren song of power is irresistable. They want to feel important the same way another person wants to be loved and secure.

The trick is to harness these people's passion for power and influence in a constractive way, by rewarding positive achievements. I feel that this is what  is being lost, the right set of incentives for politicians and as a result they lead us in a wrong direction.

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#19) On May 20, 2010 at 12:26 AM, RonChapmanJr (29.89) wrote:

as for your conspiracy theory: the government has virtually unlimited power now, except that which the constitution restricts them from having. They don't need more.

I agree they do not need more, but they do want more.

As for conspiring for profits, there is no reason that the corporations need to give government a cut, if they can get favorable legislation passed on a consistent basis. Remember a corporation's goal is to make money, not control the world.

You can make a lot more money when you control the world.  

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#20) On May 20, 2010 at 6:06 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

david,

I think you are defining evil as the founding fathers did, and  in that you are certainly correct. The definition I was using was the common one of: "we want to activly harm you, beyond what is consistent with the least amount of damage somone in our role can do". 

I hope you are enjoying Liberty, it must be a nice change from Quatar. And, as far as the Bears are concerned: good luck getting something out of that useless Cultery :). 

Dan

 

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#21) On May 20, 2010 at 6:15 PM, SockMarket (34.15) wrote:

ks,

that is quite true. Other than the Judicial branch I don't really see an area where this is a problem, what did you have in mind?

 

russian,

I don't think either of us will sway the other, so I won't try. I have only met one power hungry cop in my life and I think that your view is very cynical; although not entirely impossible. 

 

ron,

you agree that they have virtually unlimited power, yet you think they want more. What exactly, could they go for to get more power? and if they got that power, what would they do with it? (from the point of view of a congressman)

controlling the world would actually lose money for a corporation. After all, employing civil servants, managing the books, issuing debt, etc. costs money. It wouldn't be an allocativly efficient use of resources.

Rather the goal of a corporation is to sell as much of what they make as they can, at the optimum price. All they want is unrestricted access to markets and materials. Since they can pay their way into getting these things this is far cheaper than controlling the world.

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