It’s astonishing that this simple proposition could be so ignored to the detriment of the West’s civic society: Consolidating power will tend to help the powerful. Maybe… just maybe… in theory… the central hub of power will have somebody decent calling the shots for a time, but the incentives of such a society ensure that the, well, less decent have more incentive to make their way there. Centralized power does not betoken an evolved system, but a regressing one.
Even without a conscious conspiracy, one can expect that powerful people will prefer policies that help them. What works for them just feels like it must work better, and even more, it’s always possible to rationalize policies that work in one’s own favor. As The American Interest puts it:
All these blue [i.e., liberal or progressive] regulatory ideas are intended to address real concerns—access to a living wage, to quality professional services, or to retirement security—at a time of economic transition and dislocation. The question is: How do we weather this period in a humane and sustainable way? In almost all cases, the blue approach will have the opposite of its intended effect, favoring privileged insiders at the expense of those it is intended to help.
Glenn Reynolds is more cynical, suggesting that, “they’re supposed to look like they’re addressing those concerns, while actually enriching Democratic political figures.” For my part, I fall in the middle, ultimately concluding that it doesn’t matter whether it’s intentional or not, but suspecting that it’s intentional for some, convenient for others, and an error for still others. There’s just too much benefit to buying off constituencies while also siphoning off them for one’s own benefit.
The challenge is that it’s going to fall to the public to realize that the simple aphorism with which I began this post and to resist policies that are like raffle contests promising something unearned but luring the target into a hard sales pitch and a scam.