Elections Are The New Free Markets

4 comments April 10th, 2005at 07:43pm Posted by Eli

I want to elaborate a little bit on a flip comment I made on the Eschaton comments page, with regard to Santorum’s take on DeLay’s ethics issues:

“Now you may not like some of the things he’s done,” Santorum said. “That’s for the people of his district to decide, whether they want to approve that kind of behavior or not.”

This is exactly the same as when libertarians and Republicans argue against the corporate regulation: They claim that if a company is behaving badly, that “the market” will fix it, that consumers will “punish” that company for its wrongdoing. This is patently ridiculous: If anything, the wrongdoing gives that company an unfair competitive advantage over its competitors (assuming they’re not all doing the same thing), and the consumer will never even know about it, much less care enough to boycott – after all, the corporate miscreant probably has excellent prices as a result of its miscreancy.

Now Republicans make the case that there is no need to regulate elected officials, because if they misbehave the voters will take care of it. So, essentially, anything that doesn’t get you voted out of office is a-ok (See: Accountability Moment Has Passed, The). Once again, in many instances, DeLay’s in particular, the ethical lapses give the corrupt officials an unfair advantage in the all-important area of fundraising, and most voters are only dimly aware of it, or else have a perception that all politicians are corrupt, so you might as well vote for the one who can bring home the most pork.

In fact, the electoral angle is in many ways considerably worse than the free market angle: In most cases, I have a choice of products, and I am fairly confident that I am getting the brand that I paid for (although this can get a little hazy in the world of computers and electronics). The election “marketplace” is so gamed-up right now that it puts the economic marketplace to shame, with smears, misinformation, feckless reporting, voter intimidation, voter purging, strategically placed machine shortages, and outright fraud all running rampant. So you’ll have to excuse me if I’m skeptical about re-election as the ultimate stamp of ethical approcal.

I find it very ironic that Congress is so very outraged about baseball players using steroids to give themselves an unfair competitive advantage, yet cares so little about corporations and elected officials who do the exact same thing. Why not just let the fans take care of the steroid problem? Surely they’ll tire of all the scoring and home runs and stop coming to the ballparks, right? I guess it’s best not to leave something so important to society to chance; they can work on the small fry in the corporate and government spheres later.

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Elections,Politics,Republicans,Wankers


  • 1. ntodd  |  April 11th, 2005 at 1:01 am

    Well, there is that pesky thing called the Constitution that does hold a little more weight in the electoral market than Wealth of Nations does in its niche…

  • 2. Eli  |  April 11th, 2005 at 1:07 am

    It’s the same principle at work, though: We don’t need any laws at all, because the marketplace makes *everything* self-regulating.

    They don’t actually believe this, it’s just a convenient excuse for doing away with all laws and regulations that inconvenience them and their corporate masters.

  • 3. scout prime  |  April 11th, 2005 at 7:08 pm

    “the ethical lapses give the corrupt officials an unfair advantage in the all-important area of fundraising, ”

    And so get re-elected. They are playing with a stacked deck.

  • 4. Eli  |  April 11th, 2005 at 7:42 pm

    See: Mandering, Gerry; and Elections, Control Of.

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