‘Big SIS’ (The Special Interest State)

Crony Chronicles just reviewed my book Ending ‘Big SIS’ (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic.

The review is favorable (whew!)  so please check it out.  Especially gratifying is its description of the book as "systematic and easy to read".  Earning that characterization took a lot of sweat.

The book strikes many of the same chords as Sarah Palin’s September 2011 speech, summarized in yesterday’s post by Stacy Drake: If the GOP Were Smart They Would Let Gov. Palin Back Into the Room. Especially relevant are the book’s comments about the permanent political class and crony capitalism. For example:

+ W]e have a Ruling Class that cannot possibly meet the expectations that it creates, that has a tenuous connection to the productive capacities of the society, but that clings avidly to its privileges because it has no line of retreat except downward mobility. It is difficult to think of a better prescription for loss of [political] legitimacy. (Big SIS, p.165)


+ [L]aws that help the producers be productive should be at the top of the legislative to-do list. Big SIS obliterates our collective ability to tell the difference between good and bad. (p.128)

More quotations from the book:

+ U.S. politics has gone astray by losing [the] fundamental insight of the Founders. . . . we have allowed a wide variety of factions to capture parts of the government and then use the government’s powers to spend, to tax, to legislate, and to regulate for their own purposes. (p.2)

+ Big SIS [is a ratchet that allows] motion in one direction only – toward greater government activism — and then locks. . . . [O]nce a special interest gains an . . . advantage . . .  it gains the benefits of the stasis built into our governing mechanisms by the Constitution.  (p.112)

+ The genius of a republic is its blend of limited government and autonomous private institutions that most emphatically do not mimic the government’s response to special-interest pressures. (p.175) . . . A working democratic republic also requires a large private civil society and a primarily free-market economy, both insulated from special-interest-dominated government meddling. Otherwise, private institutions will inevitably turn into Little SISes. (p.174)

+ As Mancur Olson noted, the [special]  interest gets the benefits while the costs are borne by society at large, so there is “no constraint on the social cost such an organization will find it expedient to impose on society in the course of obtaining a larger share of the social output for itself.” (p.120)

+ The participants in Washington power games do not think in terms of political legitimacy. . . . [T]hey . . . do not see that legitimacy is a special kind of commons, a reservoir of general political authority that no sensible government or society fritters away. (p.162)

+ Pretty much wherever government has asserted the old Progressive/New Deal/Great Society need for total control of some segment of the society or economy, the ground has been sown with salt. (p.164)

+ Reading contemporary [judicial] opinions on government power is like making an archaeological dig into the intellectual ruins of the political thinking of the 1930s, if not the 1910s. (p.186)

+ [T]he experience of the twentieth century . . . shows that removing all checks on government power does not result in wise rule by disinterested mandarins. It produces . . .  “an unstructured, undisciplined, exploitive interest group free-for-all”. (p.189)

[Image by David Strong]

(65 Posts)

Author: "Ending 'Big SIS' (The Special Interest State) and Renewing the American Republic" (2012) [www.SpecialInterestState.org] and "Property Matters--How Property Rights Are Under Assault and Why You Should Care" (1997). Some former jobs: Assistant Director of Consumer Protection in FTC; member of the Program Analysis Staff of the US Bureau of the Budget; Research Director of the Administrative Conference of the United States; Director of IPCentral at the Progress & Freedom Foundation; VP & GC of the National Legal Center for the Public Interest. Graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, former Book Review Editor of the Harvard Law Review.