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04/09/2006

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N.E.Hatfield

A. Scott, You'd better take a real close look at the tax rebates and other incentives that Toyota got for siting that plant. You'll find them hidden away in the various "boiler plate" paragraphs. I think you'll find that the incentives are worth much more than that $200 mil. donation.

There ain't no free lunches in America anymore.

David

Imagine a world where we held politicians to the same ethical standards that we hold judges. Would not 90% of these problems instantly disappear? I think most of us are so cynical about politics that we find it difficult to even imagine a meaty ethics code for elected representatives. But why not? Don't the people deserve better?

Obvious Point, David

No, they do not. Judges are supposed to be independent and insulated from political lobbying. Politicians are not.

Collestro

W,

Whether the public is paying attention or not is not the question. The question is should one be able to spend money to advocate one?s political position. We may want to get rid of politicians who take lobbyist's cash, conversely, we might like the lobbyist and think our guy is a good guy for taking it. Our government may seems stable, but, Charles I seemed to have a good grip on things too.

In the years after Charles I, guys buttonholed members of parliament as they passed through the lobby heading into the chamber. The views of the voters were expressed to the representatives in the lobby by people hired to voice these views. Lobbying is as old as the republic; without it we might not be a republic.

W

Cholesterol,
Whether the public is paying attention is directly on point: the proposed reforms aim to provide the public more information. Greater reporting requirements to the public is a solution if one believes the public is paying attention. If the public is not paying attention, then it does not matter that more information is available. My criticism directly addresses the relevant question, which is precisely why you responded to it in the first place. Having proven yourself unable to rebut this criticism, you are now taking another crack at it, one that is entirely beside the point. Nor is the "question" you raise up for dispute without amending the constitution. You say "The question is should one be able to spend money to advocate one?s political position." While that might be a question in the halcyon England of Charles I, it is a constitutional right in the present day United States of America under our First Amendment, which, unlike, the unwritten constitution of Britain, forbids prior restraints and permits petitioning the government and freedom of the press. If you think petitioning the government and running a press were costless when the Constitution was ratified, then perhaps you should not be posting on an economics-related blog; the incontrovertible fact is "free speech" must always be paid for. Outlawing the funding of speech would negate the First Amendment. That is not, as you put it, a question: it is an absurd intrepretation of our fundamental law.

Collestro

W,

It is obvious you do not know what you are talking about. You use big words, but you don?t know what they mean. You lecture me about the "halcyon England of Charles I." Yes, it was calm and peaceful; tranquil, prosperous; a veritable golden time. Until you factor in the years of financial mismanagement and ruinous taxation which lead to the destruction of the agricultural section; the exercise of monopoly power which devastated the nation?s trade and the destruction of the parliamentary democracy. Toss in a bloody five-year civil war accompanied by starvation and plague and cap it off with a genocidal religious dictatorship and you have what one economist memorably described as , "continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." Halcyon days indeed.


The topic is, "Should Lobbying and Campaign Spending Be Further Curtailed?" No, it should not. Lobbying and Campaign Spending are core political speech. In a free society I should have the right to spend as much of my money to advocate the ideas I believe in as I want. Charles I ran into problems when he choose to try and prevent his subjects from exercising those rights which were later included in the First Amendment; as our government attempts to clamp down on free speech, it runs the same risks.


As for transparency, does it matter that the public is paying attention? No. What matters it that they have the ability to pay attention should they choose to do so. Additionally, your thesis might not be correct. I have read that there is a certain lobbyist about which people are paying a great deal of attention.

[Offtopic: How does one put paragraph breaks in text her?]

W

Dear Cholesterol:

You make two errors, both of which stem from your inability to make relevant distinctions.

1. The literal/figurative distinction. I know you dislike "big" words, but let me define two that are relevant to your dunderheaded criticism of my usage of "halcyon":

a. SARCASM n. 1. A cutting, often ironic remark intended to wound.
b. IRONY n. 1. The use of words to express something different from and often opposite to their literal meaning.

You have not proven that I do not know what "halcyon" means. By contrast, you have proven at least two things: 1. that you cannot recognize a sarcastic tone, even when someone calls you "Cholesterol"; and 2. that your intrepretation of what is the relevant question AND your interpretation of my post are incoherent. It should have been clear to anyone who read the entirety of my post that I was admonishing Britain for lacking a written constitution and permitting prior restraints on speech. Clearly, I do not find either fault to be literally halcyon, yet I used the word. A reasonable interpreter would have taken into account my tone and made a simple inference: that I was rightfully mocking you and your crude framing of the issue.

2. The "Anecdote vs. Scientifically Derived Generalization" distinction. We are discussing here lobbying that will be affected by the proposed reforms. Since the reforms are premised on increasing the quantity of information dispersed to the public, it is relevant whether whether the public will pay attention once those reforms are enacted. If not, the reforms will have no effect at a cost. Paying something for nothing is called waste.


Your appeal to Jack A. is absurd. Jack A. is not a Congressman whose behavior has been outed due to the proposed lobbying reforms under discussion here. Either you are a hypocrite or this literal-minded approach should end the debate.

Let's suppose you are a hypocrite and you refuse to die down. Even if we assumed for sake of argument that Jack A. was a Senator or Representative, your appeal to Jack A. is like arguing that because O.J. killed Nicole with a knife and the general public paid attention, everyone will pay attention to every crime involving a knife that is weekly printed in the local gazette's crime blotter. Most people who care deeply about the environment do not check the E.P.A.'s website for updated reports that agency is mandated by law to generate; no newspapers report regular reporting by government agencies unless there is the smell of a big story accompanying it. There is no reason to believe that the press or the the public in general will take advantage of these enhanced reporting requirements, so the mandating of them is a waste of resources, including federal tax dollars, paper, and time. As anyone who has taken an economics course knows, there is reason to believe that the proposed reforms will cause legislators and lobbyists to shift their behavior in a way that avoids detection by whatever means essential to generating the reports, i.e., if you announce that you'll dust for fingerprints, then I'll wear gloves; if you announce a ban on soft money, I'll use 527s.

What's more, many of the early alarums concerning Jack A. have turned out to be flatly false; dozens of Congressmen are not confessing fault and leaving office as a result of his deal-brokering; the "scandal" more and more appears to be a press overreaction; and public interest in the story has actually waned by the day.

If anything, the Jack A. story suggests the exact opposite of what you would like it to definitely prove. It doesn't undermine my "thesis," it is either irrelevant to it or it bolsters it.

And I mean that literally, Cholesterol.

Jack John

Collestro: In a free society I should have the right to spend as much of my money to advocate the ideas I believe in as I want.

. I disagree with this formulation. Even if I believe that women should murder their husbands, I cannot set up a fund to pay for that. One gets into tricky issues with foreign billionaires funding the legalization of drugs and prostitution, or other crimes, over the preferences of the majority.

Collestro

W,

Your resort to an ad homimun attack shows the weakness of your position, although you really don't seem to have a position. I think that "reform" is a bad idea. I think that giving money to people who think as I do is a core, or inalienable, right. I think that limiting my right to give money is limiting my right to speak. Governments which limit speech do not do well, in the long term.


The answer to problematic speech is; more speech. One way to do that is to publish who gets what and from whom. The proposed "reforms" are attempts to limit speech, they are not efforts to increase transparency. My notion is that we should not be putting limits on how much one can give, but allow unlimited giving. An election is very much like a market and I tend to think that free markets are better.


The last point which you miss is the effect of Abramoff. I don't think you, or anyone, knows how he will play out in the election. I have seen challengers gaining traction against incumbents tied to Abramoff. I read that a formally invincible senatorial candidate down in Florida, Katherine Harris, is getting clobbered, partly because she took Abramoff money. Not until the ballots are counted will we have a fix on Abramoff.

Of course, I believe that the remedy to bad speech is more speech. I don't think that you are correct in your position that we are better off with a written constitution. We do not seem to be following it and England while slightly behind, did have a three-hundred year head start.

John,


Even if I believe that women should murder their husbands, I cannot set up a fund to pay for that. Correct, but I should be able to run an ad in the Times advocating my position. Speech is not action.

W

Cholesterol: "My notion is that we should not be putting limits on how much one can give, but allow unlimited giving. An election is very much like a market and I tend to think that free markets are better."


1. Hmm, we never argued about this, so this point either mischaracterizes my argument, or is just irrelevant. Nor did I resort to an ad hominem; it simply accompanied and is independent of my argument.
2. The notion that markets are "free" is meaningless rhetoric.
3. The reforms propose to increase reporting requirements, not to directly limit expenditures. As I pointed out before, directly limiting expenditures would clearly be prohibited by the First Amendment. It is not the case that such would necessarily be prohibited by the unwritten Constitution of Britain. You cannot have it both ways. So, unless your position is inconsistent, it is you who has no coherent position.

Jack John

Collestro,
You say that you should be able to run an ad in the Times advocating your position. What if Bill Gates gives 2 billion each to the Republican and the Democrat nominees. No problem then? Is that a free market? Is that what the Founders sought to protect...Microsoft's monopoly? I do not understand your position. Free speech does not mean the absence of democracy.

W

Cholesterol: "The proposed "reforms" are attempts to limit speech, they are not efforts to increase transparency"

Posner: "In the wake of the Jack Abramoff scandal, measures are under consideration in Congress to restrict lobbying more than at present by requiring more lobbyists to register (and thus provide more information on lobbying activities to the interested public), by requiring more public disclosure of existing lobbyists’ activities..."

Learn to read.

W

I don't think you, or anyone, knows how he will play out in the election.

That has nothing to do with the proposed reforms.

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