If lobbyists are essentially providing benign services to congressional office-holders, mainly in areas already of interest to the congressmen, what is the harm? Lessig cites an important paper entitled “Lobbying as Legislative Subsidy” by Richard Hall and Alan Deardorff, in which they set forth three reasons why this is harmful.
We subsidize corn products, and thus high fructose corn syrup (and even the corn-derived ethanol additive in our gasoline). Our government also protects milk, with at least ten federal orders that regulate how milk is priced; almost 60% of milk production is under federal regulation. It is estimated by the OEDC that the subsidy increases the price of milk by about 26 cents. Cheese costs 37 cents more in the US than in other countries, and butter 100% more than in other places. Of course, there are similar interventions that subsidize and protect US companies and products: shrimp producers, cotton producers, banana producers, peanut farmers, domestic lumber, and steel, just to name a few products.
It is perhaps worthwhile at this juncture to present a series of quotes from the author that further illustrate his main point and some of the elements that enter into consideration on this topic of deviation and corruption. They also provide a fitting conclusion to this exposition.
“As the Federalist Papers put it – oddly…because in practically every other instance, the Papers use dependence in (its usual) negative sense – “dependence” means a Congress “dependent on the People alone.” Dependence – meaning answerable to, relying on, controlled by. Alone – meaning dependent upon nothing or no one else. So, in a single line, in a way that frames the core of my claim that ours is a corrupt Congress, the Framers gave us a “Republic”; to them, a republic was to be a “representative democracy” …” dependent upon the People alone.” A representative democracy that developed a competing dependency, conflicting with the dependency upon the people, would be ‘corrupt’.”
First, and most obviously: the Fund-raising Congress is distracted.
Second, relative to the constitutional baseline, the work of the Fund-raising Congress is distorted.
Third, Trust (or perhaps a loss of).
Next time: a critical look at Lessig’s solutions to our problem of dependence corruption.