Good Intentions Gone Awry
Published: March 19, 2020
In politics, reforms intended to serve the public interest often end up benefitting private interests instead. When reformers create new regulations, they create opportunities that special interests can exploit to accumulate money and power. As long as we believe that the way to solve our problems is to permanently give the government more power, it will continue to grow.
- What are some examples of special interests benefiting from government reforms?
- What government programs look different from how they did when they were initially created?
When reformers get a measure through, they go on to their next crusade, leaving no one behind to protect the public interest. But they do leave behind some money and some power, and the special interests that can benefit from that money and from that power are quick to gain it, at the expense of most of the rest of us.
By now, after 50 years of experience, it is clear that it doesn’t really matter who lives in that house.
Government will continue to grow so long as the rest of us believe that the way to solve our problems is to turn them over to government. As Adam Smith wrote over two hundred years ago, “In the economic market, people who intend to serve only their own private interests are led by an invisible hand to serve public interests that it was no part of their intention to promote.”
In the political market, there is an invisible hand operating as well, in the opposite direction.
People who intend only to serve the public interest are led by an invisible hand to serve private interests that it was no part of their intention to promote.