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04/09/2006

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J.S.

Dr. Becker,

With all due respect, I think you make a fundamental error in assuming that the relatively small amount of money (compared to the government budget) spent on lobbying and campaign contributions by special interests means that bribes aren't really taking place (after all, if they were so profitable economic logic would dictate that much more money would be spent). What you fail to recognize is that there is some level of lobbying and campaign contributions that would raise a red flag so large that it would invite unwanted scrutiny. For example, if Exxon-Mobil gave $100 million to the Bush re-election campaign it would be front page news and put so much attention on the links betwee their interests and the Bush Administration that it would probably lead to lower returns. This means that there is a threshold at which contributions to politicians and money spent lobbying becomes too big to remain largely under the radar and the optimal amount is just enough to get a lot of what you want WITHOUT raising too many suspicions. Special interests do get returns of tens of thousands of a percent on their money- amounts most can only dream of- but they need to be careful not to exceed the threshold at which public outcry becomes too big. The system is inherently corrupt, but why give more money and lobby more when you get just about everything you want on the cheap anyway?

J.S.

Arun Khanna

In the real world, the entire sorry episode illustrates the clear need for amending the Indian casinos law, it is much less clear that lobbying laws needs change.

In Washington D.C.'s world, it is clear that lobbying laws will be amended while the Indian casinos law shall probably remain unmended.

Wes

If as I (and Posner) believe, the essence of democracy is competition in the political process, that competitive process should include persuading and influencing activities.The fundamental purpose of the US constitution is to ensure that this competition in the political process is fair.In particular, the US constitution tries to ensure that we have a government by and for all the people - that no particular group of people (the nobility, the rich, a particular religious group, etc.) has excessive influence on the government. It is fundamental to the purpose of the US constitution to question whether lobbying gives certain groups excessive influence.More broadly, however, the technology now exists to make lobbying in its present form obsolete. In particular, the technology now exists to allow people to vote directly on important issues that come before the various branches of government.The government could set up a website where once a week people could log on and vote directly on five or so congressional bills and presidential executive decisions. As it is, a constituent is never sure whether their representative is going to vote they way that constituent wants.The default would be that the representative voted on the constituents behalf but if the constituent cared enough then the constituent could specify his or her vote directly. For example, a member of the House of Respresentatives that had one million constituents would have one million votes by default. If one third of the million constituents specified their votes directly then the representative would control the remaining two thirds of of the million votes.This could also work for important executive decisions. For example, unless there was a dire emergency where direct voting was not feasible, then a decision to go to war would have to be made directly by the people.This would be a lot of information for the constituents to handle but systems like wikipedia and slashdot style comment and comment ranking systems would allow the people themselves to craft summaries of the issues. This would essentially take the place of the lobbyists or, at the very least, the paid lobbyists would have to focus on lobbying the people directly.This would also solve the problem of gerrymandering. If one party managed to engineer small majorities in many districts and get memebrs of their party elected in many districts, this would be offset by the fact that the constituents in those districts could choose to specify their votes directly when they opposed the stance of the elected representative.The fundamental challenge in a majority rules democracy is protecting the rights of the minority and direct voting would do much to promote this.

Bill

3 billion is small when compared to the federal budget. The earth is small when compared to Jupiter. But 3 billion is not small compared to the relatively few number of people who make decisions on where that 2 trillion is going. What is important is what kind of results that 3 billion is getting.

I think you kind of wandered off on a tangent by comparing two numbers, one really big and the other really, really, big, but neither of which is a direct function of the other one.

mtv200

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