Parasites

The Wall Street Journal has a nice article about the legal hassles a pipeline company encountered in building a natural gas pipeline that was really essential.

If you haven’t already, go read it now. Many of the comments on the comments tab there are also worth your time.

The article itself is pretty good, but what’s really depressing is that the problem it describes is not going to be fixed. All of those parasites El Paso had to hire and/or pay off are highly organized political blocks, and unless we elect 535 Ron Paul clones to the Congress, none of this is going to change. Even if you cut back on regulations and the number of federal regulatory employees, you still have the laws in place that give huge incentives for people to sue project developers.

Most people think the environmental movement is a good thing. They also think advocating for the disabled is a good thing. Or “protecting the children” is a good thing. And so on and so on, ad infinitum. They see nothing wrong with using the force of government to obtain things that they themselves are unwilling to pay for in a market transaction.

They’re wrong. If you want to preserve some wetlands, you should just buy them and then protect them to your heart’s content. If you need to buy up an entire river basin to do that, too bad. Maybe you can contract with all of the basin’s landowners to do something. But you’ll have to pay them enough to get their agreement, and you’ll have to spend your own money.

Unless and until the vast majority of voters begins to think this way, things will continue to get worse. If you want to see where this leads, look at India. India has had tons of educated people for most of the past century, yet only recently has the country started to lift itself out of poverty.

What held it back for decades, and is still a problem now, is huge amounts of regulations and inconsistent laws that no one could actually comply with. Instead, the accepted way of doing business was to bribe various officials to let you operate. But it was hard to know just who to bribe and how much, and there was always the danger that some official you never even heard of would pop out of the woodwork with his hand out as well. It was too much for most potential businessmen. By the time you paid off all the parasites, what was left wasn’t worth the effort. Much better to just get a government job yourself.

No matter how bad life for the average Indian was, at least he could console himself that he wasn’t Chinese. The Communist government there turned the entire country into a vast impoverished prison. Read Orwell’s Animal Farm and multiply by three. That’s what China was like.

But when Mao Tse Tung (the greatest mass murderer in history) finally croaked, China started economic reforms that set it on a growth path. Three decades later, the humiliation of falling behind the Chinese finally spurred Indian voters to start putting some nonparasites in office. But there are still a lot of them in there, and despite the advantages of an educated populace and a decent legal system left behind by the British, India is still not growing as fast as China.

India is the only case I know of where a democracy actually voted out a substantial number of parasites. By the time things get really bad, the parasites are such a large percentage of the voters that it takes a real shock to the rest of the electorate to defeat them democratically. Most countries that have gotten rid of them did so either by revolution, as in some of the eastern European countries, or military dictatorships, as in South Korea and Chile.

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One reason politicians are so despised

is the way they distort the records and actions of their political opponents.  Rich Iott is a Republican candidate for Ohio’s 9th congressional district, running against the incumbent Democrat, Rep. Marcy Kaptur.  For many years he participated, sometimes with his son, in reenactments of historical battles from the Civil War and World Wars I and II.  A harmless hobby, you might think.  But, as anyone who ever played Cowboys and Indians as a kid will remember, sometimes you’re a Cowboy and sometimes you’re an Indian.  So the Democrats dug up a photo of Iott in the uniform of a Waffen SS officer and are now trying to insinuate that this implies that he’s some kind of Nazi sympathizer.

Debating House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va) on Fox News Sunday this morning, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) brought up Iott’s wearing of a “Nazi uniform” as an example of Republican extremism.  Not to be outdone in the stupidity sweepstakes, Cantor quickly denounced Iott as well.  See Cantor repudiates Republican involved in Nazi reenactment – POLITICO Live – POLITICO.com.

Aside from the fact that it demonstrates that television shows need a version of Godwin’s Law, there are a couple of other things worth noting about this exchange. It should go without saying that Wasserman Schultz’s distortion of Iott’s reenactment hobby is despicable.

But what are we to think of Cantor’s response?  The charitable interpretation is that he was surprised by the allegation, and responded with a quick denunciation as a way of trying to quickly defang Wasserman Schultz. The fact that Cantor is Jewish may have led him to respond a bit too quickly to the “Nazi” bit.

But if he was surprised, he shouldn’t have been. This story was circulating in the blogosphere yesterday, and surely the Republican House leadership has people reading all the political blogs.  So what if he wasn’t actually surprised? Couldn’t he have quickly pointed out that Iott’s participation in other reenactments shows that he, like thousands of other loyal Americans, has a harmless hobby? Imagine the hay he could have made had he turned the table on Wasserman Schultz, pointing out that surely she knew of Iott’s other reenactments, as there are pictures of them on his web site. The claim that Iott thus demonstrated his “extremism” is a lie, Wasserman Schultz knows it, and Cantor should have pointed it out.

So why didn’t he? Assuming that he knew the back story, I suppose he wanted to keep the focus on national issues, like the poor economy, rather than get dragged into the minutia of campaigns for specific seats. He may have figured that explaining what Iott had really done would take more than five seconds, and he was likely to get cut off by Chris Wallace.  Even if he did manage to get out the truth, Wasserman Schultz could quickly come up with some other lie (surely she had a few in reserve) that would take even more time to debunk.  And in the soundbite war that passes for political discussion on television these days, short and punchy lines are the only ones worth saying.