Elizabeth Warren promises that if elected, the first thing she will do as president is push through a “sweeping” anti-corruption plan that will “take power away from the wealthy and the well-connected in Washington and put it back where it belongs — in the hands of the people.”
Where have we heard such promises before? Oh, right, from pretty much every candidate running for president. Barack Obama said in 2008 that if he were elected, he would “launch the most sweeping ethics reform in U.S. history. We will make government more open, more accountable and more responsive to the problems of the American people.”
Bill Clinton in 1992 promised to “break the stranglehold the special interests have on our elections and the lobbyists have on our government.”
Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp.
Despite Warren’s description of her plan as “far-reaching and aggressive,” it amounts to little more than a grab bag of reforms, many of which have been tried before in one way or another. She’d stop the revolving door between government service and lobbying. She’d ban lawmakers and their staff members from serving on corporate boards. She’d create a new Office of Public Integrity.
Whatever the merits of Warren’s specific anti-corruption proposals, the simple truth is that the rest of her agenda would have the exact opposite effect.
The problem with all these “anti-corruption” efforts is that they are trying to treat the symptom, not the disease.
And, in this case, the disease is Big G
And, boy, does Warren want Big Government. Her agenda — Green New Deal, Medicare for All, free college, a vast increase in the regulatory state — would more than double the size of government.
The connection between the size of government and corruption isn’t just idle speculation.
Writing in the Global Anticorruption Blog, Harvard law professor Matthew Stephenson says several studies have found a clear correlation in the U.S. between the size of state governments and corruption.
“Within the U.S., when controlling for a number of other economic and demographic factors, states with larger public sectors seem to have higher corruption,” he writes.
A 1998 study, for example, shows “government size, in particular, spending by state gove
A 2012 study, titled “Live Free or Bribe,” looked at the number of government officials convicted in a state for crimes related to corruption and found that the more economic freedom there was in the state, the less corruption resulted.
“Economic freedom,” the study found, “has a negative impact on corruption.”
What this means is that Warren’s plan — which would result in a drastic expansion in government and an equally sharp reduction of economic freedom — would produce a steep increase in corruption.
Likewise, Warren’s massive government expansion would only embolden the lobbyist class.
Here’s one prime example: Before the Clinton administration decided to sic government antitrust lawyers on Microsoft in 1998, the company had almost no lobbying presence in Washington whatsoever. Within four years of the White House attack, Microsoft had, as CNN described it, “one of the most dominating, multifaceted, and sophisticated influence machines around.”
Now take a look at the nearby chart. It tracks federal spending and lobbyist spending since 1998. The two lines are almost identical.
As we’ve noted in this space before, Big Business likes Big Government precisely because Big Government butts into markets. Big companies can afford to hire an army of lobbyists to shape and mold federal rules, regulations
So, by vastly expanding the size and intrusiveness of the federal government, the Democratic senator from Massachusetts would put even more power into the hands of the wealthy and well-connected and unleash government corruption on an unprecedented scale.
If you want less government corruption and if you want to neuter the power and influence of lobbyists, there’s only one sure way to do it: Radically shrink the size of government.
It doesn’t matter how many platitudes politicians spew, or how many good-government plans they produce, so long as the government inserts itself so deeply into the country’s affairs, lobbying, cronyism, and corruption will be endemic.
— Written by John Merline
Note to Readers: Issues & Insights is a new site launched by the seasoned journalists behind the legendary IBD Editorials page. Our mission is to use our decades of experience to provide timely, fact-based reporting and deeply informed analysis on the news of the day.
We’re doing this on a voluntary basis because we think our approach to commentary is sorely lacking both in today’s mainstream media and on the internet. If you like what you see, feel free to click the Tip Jar over on the right sidebar. And be sure to tell your friends!