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Thursday, January 03, 2008


Special Interests

A Wall Street Journal editorial takes a look at John Edwards campaign rhetoric regarding greedy corporations:
But given his egalitarian impulses, we also wondered if the former Senator would include billionaire trial lawyers among those who'd have their earnings capped, et cetera. We called the campaign to ask, and a spokesman offered the following: "Entrenched interests are anyone lobbying for their own corporate greed against the best interests of America's middle class." We'll take that as a no.

As lobbying loopholes go, this is the Marianas Trench. Modern tort firms are giant, multibillion-dollar enterprises that affect nearly every business in America. The payouts for tobacco, silicosis, breast implant and shareholder "strike" suits, among many others, often make CEO pay look piddling.

These firms also have more than a little clout in Washington, especially in the current Congress. Trial lawyers were responsible for a provision in a Food and Drug Administration bill that they hope will make it easier to sue drug companies over labels. Bill after bill introduced in 2007 included a provision to reduce non-lawsuit dispute settlement; the lawyers make sure it's in there almost as a preamble.
The WSJ seems to think candidate Edwards is just a bit narrow with his concern about special interests:
Mr. Edwards's populism, then, would seem to work like this: If you're a business that creates wealth, you're a special interest. If you redistribute that wealth, you're not.
Given the nature of politics I'm not too surprised about this. I'm curious how you might find Olson's Logic of Collective Action applicable to the candidate's populism?

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