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Saturday, December 02, 2006


ethics watchdogs

Recently, with Fidel Castro missing his own birthday parade, conditions seem to be moving towards a tipping point in Cuba. As Raul Castro takes charge, an adamant anti-Castro group of Cuban Americans have had complaints filed against them for ethics violations. The group, which is almost totally prototypical of Olson's theory, works to lobby Congress for harsher sanctions against Cuba and Castro's regime. I say they're prototypical not simply because of their explicit lopbbying purpose, but also because of their formation, and the various mechanisms that occured which further prove Olson's point.
The group, which is called Cuba Democracy Advocates, was formed by a group of business men. This makes me think of Olson's theory for two reasons. The first, which I have always felt was tacitly implied throughout Olson's work, is that there is some specialization required in organizing action, and that this sort of know how is commonly found within the private sector. Essentially, I believe that Olson comments time and again about the effectiveness of leaders from the private sector in organizing lobbying groups. Additionally, within the Cuban lobbying group scenario, there may be a more sinister role in play, which Olson would characterize as a Baptist and Bootlegger situation. It seems that it is certainly possible (probable?) that these business men perhaps have an ulterior motive in increasing sanctions. I merely point it out as a possible outcome, and one which I think Olson's theory points towards.
The Cuba Democracy Advocates also use lobbying of both political parties suggesting a broader agenda of the group, despite the fact that the right is typically more favorable of such sanctions. I think, however, that the story itself truly proves an interesting point of Olson's. Within this story, the anti-Castro group broke a procedural rule involving funding their organization, and this is the third such complaint brought against them by an ethics watchdog group (this is why I suspect the possibility of bootleggers). The Cuba Democracy Advocates claimed that the ethics watchdog group was heavily funded by an opposition group. Regardless of the actual facts, I can't help but take notice of all the resources being used in this conflict which could surely have had a more productive use. Sanctions are a dubious tool at best from an efficiency standpoint, when we add the resources needed to purchase favorable legislation, and run an organization, then take into account the rival groups and all the groups meant to ensure ethical behavior, and THEN all the resources likely used in purchasing the ethics watchdogs, the amount of wasted resources is truly staggering. I never before considered that the ethics watchdogs are less likely to be part of the solution, but rather worsen the situation by adding one more layer of corruption and paperwork.

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