Saturday, March 01, 2008

Freedom of Religion, Speech, the Press, and Lobbying

Before discussing the dust-up over the New York Times' recent inept attempt to smear John McCain, Charles Krauthammer makes the correct and frequently ignored observation that lobbying is a practice that is protected by the First Amendment, which guarantees Americans the right to "petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Of course, that doesn't mean that all lobbying should thrill us, any more than all exercises of free speech should make us happy. However, Mr. Krauthammer goes on to remind us that much of the "bad lobbying" has come about for a reason:

There is a defense of even bad lobbying. It goes like this: You wouldn’t need to be seeking advantage if the federal government had not appropriated for itself in the 20th Century all kinds of powers, regulations, intrusions, and manipulations (often through the tax code) that had never been presumed in the 19th Century and certainly never imagined by the Founders. What appears to be rent-seeking is thus redress of a larger grievance — insufferable government meddling in what had traditionally been considered an area of free enterprise.

That is a point well made, and it points to the best kind of political reform: conservatism -- not the kind of conservatism of Tom Delay and some of the ongoing Republican leadership in Congress, which has as its goal the rewarding through taxpayers of those enterprises that support Republican causes, but the sort of conservatism that legitimately believes in limited government.

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