Towards A Theory Of Political Power

by Patrick Appel

A reader writes:

In response to this. So I'm curious, where does that leave the average voter in the process? With politicians caring more about lobbyist issues than those of their constituents, we may as well not have even taken time out of our day to visit the polling booth. We voted the *politician* in to office to be our voice in the halls of congress. Why should the voters and/or activists then have to enlist "opposing powerful elements" to fight for influence by proxy?  I mean hell, if that has become business as usual, why not just dissolve congress altogether and bring the back lines (and the back rooms) to the front.

Voters' interests and special interests can overlap and the balance between the two can shift. The characters and political philosophies of politicians matter, but the money trading hands cannot be ignored. It is easier to understand DC if one treats politicians as rational actors chasing incentives rather than ideological absolutists. Garnering votes is an important incentive but only one of many. My point was that separating special interests completely from government is both impossible and undesirable, not that the current balance between greater interests and special interests is ideal or the best we can do.

We shouldn't dissolve Congress because the alternatives are worse. In a democratic system the most powerful interests are almost exclusively interested in wealth creation. In a system like Iran's, to take as example a government the Dish has spent a good deal of time studying, power is concentrated in fewer hands and power is likely to infringe more upon the personal sphere. Those in control might want to impose religious law or demand the imprisonment or execution of certain individuals, to name just a few abuses of power, in addition to hoarding wealth. Banks lobbying for the right to impose larger ATM usage fees is rather mild in comparison.

This is not to say that I am enamored by lobbying in DC, but our system of horse trading is a compromise that contains the worst corruptions of power.