Monday, December 15, 2008

Obama Administration Will Result in More Jobs on K Street

Robert Samuelson writes that the number of lobbyists at work in Washington will increase dramatically during the Obama administration. All Americans should be glad.

The reason that the number of lobbyists will increase is that the Obama administration stands ready to change and expand the role of government in a variety of ways -- through a "stimulus package," health care reform, energy and transportation reform, climate change legislation and a variety of other ways. Mr. Samuelson says that these plans run counter to the only one way to eliminate lobbying, which he says is to eliminate government. Actually, there is a second way to reduce, if not eliminate lobbying, which is to put government out of reach of people. The elimination of government is anarchy, and an inaccessible government means tyranny. Neither of these solutions is good.

While many people want to vilify those who try to influence government policy as "special interests," Mr. Samuelson is right about this:

We are a collection of special interests, and one person's special interest is another's job or moral crusade. If people can't organize to influence government -- to muzzle or shape its powers -- then democracy is dead. The "will of the people" is rarely observable because people disagree and have inconsistent desires. Of course, the "public good" should always triumph, but what represents the public good is usually debatable. The idea that the making of these choices should occur in a vacuum -- delegated to an all-knowing political elite -- is profoundly undemocratic. Lobbyists sharpen debate by providing an outlet for more constituencies and giving government more information.

It is the role of elected officials to debate and decide what is in the public good. When they fail to do so, they should be held responsible by voters. It is the role of all of us -- as individuals or through groups -- to try to influence government in ways that we think best. The First Amendment right to do that must be held sacrosanct.

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