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Quotation of the Day…

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… is from page 99 of Harold Demsetz’s brilliant 1982 volume, Economic, Legal, and Political Dimensions of Competition [2]:

Highly organized groups, because their political power reflects an influence that extends beyond their numbers, generally prefer more, not less, government involvement in the affairs of society.  This preference reflects the ability of special interests to shift the cost of what they want to others.

One tragic lesson: Beware of the success even of groups that start off sincerely with the goal of reducing the size and scope of government.  If such groups succeed in gaining an influential political voice, they have – it follows – succeeded at overcoming the organizational obstacles that prevent the successful formation of many other potential groups (such as consumers) into effective political lobbies.  The very success of the members of the successfully organized, and now politically vocal, group itself gives these members outsized influence in the political process.  This possession of disproportionately large political influence risks making the members of this group less interested than they were before in scaling back the size and scope of politics.

Put differently, those who seek to reduce the size and scope of government by becoming part of the political establishment (in order to reform government ‘from within’) will, to the extent that their tactics are successful, lose interest in reducing the size and scope of government.  It’s easy, and often attractive, to rail against enormous government power when the levers of that power are gripped by the hands of other people; it’s less easy and less attractive to rail against enormous government power when your own hands are among those with a grip on the levers of such power.

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