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Higgs on the Incentives of the Political Class

After reading my antitrust post, Bob Higgs offers this explanation for why politicians, bureaucrats, judges, juries, and prosecutors

have an incentive to do the WRONG thing with respect to economic efficiency and justice. For such "public" actors, even putting aside workaday personal corruption, all the incentives are to GIVE THE IMPRESSION of having done the right thing. Thus, they pander not only to active special-interest pressures but also to every species of public ignorance and viciousness. It serves their interest, say, to put Martha Stewart in prison–to name just one typically stupid and unjust action.
When the entrepreneur’s bottom line is black, we know that he has moved less valuable resources into more valuable forms, places, and so forth, as judged by the entire market system of resource valuation; the public’s IMPRESSION of what has been done has no bearing whatever on the realities of the situation; and the institution of bankruptcy insures that real values, not impressions, dominate the ultimate outcome.
In contrast, when "public" actors take an action, the only bottom line consists of rewards that accrue TO THEM (reelection, increased salaries, public acclaim, etc.), all of which bespeak only success in predation, the very opposite of what entrepreneurs do to benefit the public. To "succeed" as a public actor is nearly tantamount to acting in a shameful and (truly if not formally) criminal way.
How often does a john go into a bordello and pay the girl to read to him from the Bible? Men go into whorehouses for a reason. People engage in politics for a reason, too.
True dat.


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