Here’s a quick question for anyone who takes seriously politicians’ pronouncements about what particular industries are “vital” or are “of the future” or are “crucial to meeting consumers’ needs”:
Why do virtually none of these politicians, when they leave office, found their own non-political firms?Why do virtually none of these politicians, when they leave office, found their own non-political firms – firms that specialize neither in granting clients access to incumbent politicians nor in projects that depend upon getting subsidies or other favors from those same politicians?
This question occurred to me a few days ago upon hearing that former president Bill Clinton was off somewhere talking about something to some group concerned about some issue. His career now is to make lots of money as a sort of high-brow social healer – to emit platitudes, attend state funerals, and (pardon my switch of imagery) be a show-pony for politically correct causes. The post-Oval Office careers of every other recent president – to the extent that they haven’t simply retired to the golf course or the study – have been largely the same, with the groups and causes served by their attentions differing only as one former president’s political affiliations differ from those of another former president.
One guy comes to mind who had a sniff of the White House and then went on to run his own business: George McGovern. And though its just a small Inn that will never be even a blip on the economic radar screen, it has driven McGovern dangerously close to being a libertarian. Actually, that might be a misnomer. He probably is still a liberal, but from the days when liberals actually cared about individual freedom and saw aggregations of power in the government to be at least as scary as those in the private world. Take this for example:
Under the guise of protecting us from ourselves, the right and the left are becoming ever more aggressive in regulating behavior. Much paternalist scrutiny has recently centered on personal economics...
Since leaving office I've written about public policy from a new perspective: outside looking in. I've come to realize that protecting freedom of choice in our everyday lives is essential to maintaining a healthy civil society.
Why do we think we are helping adult consumers by taking away their options? We don't take away cars because we don't like some people speeding. We allow state lotteries despite knowing some people are betting their grocery money. Everyone is exposed to economic risks of some kind. But we don't operate mindlessly in trying to smooth out every theoretical wrinkle in life.
The nature of freedom of choice is that some people will misuse their responsibility and hurt themselves in the process. We should do our best to educate them, but without diminishing choice for everyone else.
The only other place I have heard this recently on the Left was, perhaps not coincidentally, from that other child of 60's liberal politics, Jerry Brown
To the Members of the California State Senate:
I am returning Senate Bill 105 without my signature.
This measure would impose criminal penalties on a child under the age of 18 and his or her parents if the child skis or snowboards without a helmet.
While I appreciate the value of wearing a ski helmet, I am concerned about the continuing and seemingly inexorable transfer of authority from parents to the state. Not every human problem deserves a law.
I believe parents have the ability and responsibility to make good choices for their children.
Edmund J. Brown
Postscript: The answer to Don's question is one of two. Either a) They are not up to it. And/or b) There is a hell of a lot more wealth that can be captured through the exercise of government power than through private enterprise.