Russ Moore has an article on GoLocalProv taking up the question of whether the recently announced study that the Brookings Institution is preparing to perform in Rhode Island involves any conflicts of interest. John Marion of Common Cause has a habitually measured comment:
“The big question here is how the donation is being handled,” said John Marion, the executive director of the Rhode Island Chapter of Common Cause, a good government group that focuses on the issues of ethics, transparency, and the influence of money in politics.
“Is there a firewall between the donors and the researchers or are the donors picking the researchers and in contact with them? If there isn’t then the people who care about the issue of government influence by private interests should be concerned, but I would expect academic institutions to have those safeguards in place.”
Frankly, the Brookings study illustrates how limited notions of conflicts of interest are. The participants don’t have to worry about direct instructions to each other because they’ve already passed through countless filters that ensure that they’re all aligned ideologically. Nobody’s involved who isn’t already reliably on board. There’s no chance that Brookings will find that what Rhode Island needs is less government planning, less reliance on fancy investment and funding mechanisms, and more emphasis on individual freedom.
Mark Gallogly, for instance, is helping to fund the study, and his Centerbridge Partners investment firm handles $65 million in state pension money. He was also a member of President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board. In other words, he’s one of the people stitching together a certain way of organizing society. Another funder, the Rhode Island Foundation, is already a major backer of GrowSmart and the whole RhodeMap RI project.
Indeed, Brookings has already promised it as a theme of their study:
“This is an opportunity that you don’t get that often, to take a shot at putting the state on a different trajectory,” [Mark Muro, director of policy for Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program] added. “It’s been a rough decade.” …
“I think in most parts of the U.S. it’s still, the government does this, the corporations do that, the universities are somewhere else,” [Bruce Katz, the nationally-known head of the Metropolitan Policy Program] said. “In the successful places around the world there’s a seamless interaction between all these different sectors, and if they’re all on the same page – then that’s when you get the bigger returns. So it’s not just the policy … it’s this foundation of collaboration.”
The idea is to use government to get every area of social activity in alignment toward the goals of the progressives pulling the strings as the elites in every sector. Of course they’ll all get fabulously rich, but that’s just incidental and unavoidable. (They’re capitalists enough to believe that the people pulling the strings have to be paid commensurately with their responsibility.)
The whole thing — progressivism — is a massive conflict of interest. That’s the core principle of its design. And the masterstroke is that its advocates will simultaneously attempt to use campaign finance laws to impede those who aren’t as well connected and so have to be more direct in their advocacy because they lack the resources and inside connections to build firewalls for show. They’ll also use all sorts of “transparency” laws regulating political activity to create disincentive for regular Americans to get involved in government at any level, weighing them down with forms, privacy invasions, and arcane risks of political controversy if they make any mistakes or have any of the wrong friends.
One needn’t directly buy off politicians while they’re in office if they know they’re likely to get jobs with your think tank, lobbying firm, or investment adviser when they’re out of office. Similarly, one doesn’t have to buy journalists lunch to influence them when they see your organization as a future job prospect.
The technocrats are no longer in the shadows with this. If people think there’s something wrong with it — if they don’t think government, business, and academia should all work together to tell everybody else how to live — then they should wake up and push back.