How the World Works

As an economics professor, I taught from the Chicago School scripture about the superiority of private business over any contending sector of society.  I could never teach so naively again after spending almost a decade observing the Washington legislative sausage factory.  Republicans and New Democrats have merged business interests and government policy into a symbiotic beast that feeds on pork and payoffs.  The measure of political viability for any candidate depends on how much campaign money can be raised from lobbyists, and the prospect for any piece of legislation rests with the balance of special interests for and against it.  Public opinion counts for little.  And, while most conservatives breathe easier when petty concerns push grander “socialist” ideologies off the stage, the spread of venality also means the absence of any guiding sense of common interest or national purpose.

Wealth and social status, successful enterprise and political power have always intermixed, of course, and this is not inherently bad.  Alexander Hamilton hoped to use the national debt and industrial tariffs to create a business class whose personal interests would support public policy and the Constitution.  The question is, How do we keep the tail from wagging the dog?

One of the worst examples of tailspin occurred just before the 1998 elections.  The Business-Industry...

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