Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can We Arrange a Marriage between The Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street?

I'm with the Dirty Effin' Hippies, but I'm not sure that we can ever agree on how to address the unholy alliance of big business and the state.

I think the difficulty in reconciling the 'right' { Tea Party / libertarians / conservatives } and the 'left' { Occupy Wall Street / progressives / liberals } is reconciling our differing solutions on how to destroy or contain the unholy alliance. The right wants to restrict the power of the state and its ability to protect or benefit business while the left wants to restrict the power of business to influence politicians and bureaucrats. But the right fear restrictions on business are too broad and unfairly hurt legitimate lobbying. And the left fears restrictions on the power of the state are too broad and unfairly prevent the state from providing public goods. And of course the right too more often fears an overly powerful state, while the left more fears overly powerful business interests.

The right believes that businesses will cease or reduce the purchase of political influence if there is nothing to buy, i.e. if state actors are unable or less able to benefit businesses. But the left believes that politicians and bureaucrats will cease to benefit business if we prevent them from buying influence. Both are impossible ideals.

How can we prevent the state from ever benefiting specific businesses? If legislators were to simplify the tax code of their jurisdiction, accountants and other tax professionals would suffer and all other tax-paying organizations and individuals would benefit (at least in terms of tax compliance). We would expect accountants and tax professionals to lobby against such policy, and because the asymmetrically concentrated benefits or losses among one group, we can expect that group to lobby more effectively. Conversely, how could we prevent businesses from ever benefiting or harming state actors? Every politician, bureaucrat, or employee of the state is a person living in some community and is therefore connected to other people, other businesses, and therefore is almost inevitably connected to any business to at least some degree.

The only policy I can think of that might be embraced by both the left and the right is to prohibit future bailouts of financial businesses or even to 'claw-back' the most recent bailouts of financial firms.

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