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New York Times Discovers The Problem With The Large State

The New York Times is not normally a fan of the small, minarchist, state. That is to put the point in a most mild manner, for they’re usually all in favour of ever more governance and ever larger government, as long as the sort of people who write the New York Times are the people doing the governing.

When considering the European Union’s agricultural policies they manage to spot a small flaw in how such a system works:

Yet it is opaque in key areas, with gaping shortcomings in accountability. In November, a New York Times investigation revealed that the subsidies underwrite oligarchs, mobsters and far-right populists. The Times also showed that some national leaders use the money to enrich friends, political allies and family members.

Such abuses succeed in part because of a system in Brussels that favors those who earn the most from the subsidies. Not only do they play an outsized role in setting policies, they also benefit from murky conflict-of-interest rules, weak lobbying-disclosure laws and a haphazard accountability system in which cases can drag on for years even when outright fraud is discovered.

Agricultural lobbyists, among the most influential in Europe, have exclusive, closed-door access to government leaders. Conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to the ministers who vote on legislation. And members of the European Parliament are not prohibited from writing the laws for the very subsidies they receive.

All of that is true of course and equally of course all of that stinks.

But why is there any surprise? For it isn’t that the system was set up so that those who get the cash decide how much cash they get. Nor is any other such system set up that way. Rather, the people who get the cash colonise the system that allocates the cash.

The people who get the cash colonise any and every system of allocating cash that is. Why wouldn’t they? If there’s €60 billion being spent on farmers then there are those 60 billion reasons why farmers will go infiltrate the system that allocates that €60 billion. And, let’s be honest about it, even in continental government sized numbers that’s a lot of reasons. It’s the same reason that American’s farmers have a significant voice in the allocation of food stamps. As well as farm subsidies. It’s the same reason any industry being subsidised gets people into the system doling out the subsidies.

The only way to avoid this happening is not to have the subsidies. People won’t bother to try to take over a minarchist state because there’s no point to doing so. Recipients always will take over anything larger because there’s cream to be had from those teats.

Getting the NYT to understand this would be difficult of course for their only really abiding interest is in making sure that the sort of people who write the NYT are the fat cats.

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1 year ago

And you’ve already noted that some of that €60 billion can be had by investing a tiny fraction of that amount.

But the Times is not deviating from form; it suggests that this pursuit of self-interest could be prevented if the EU simply had better open-meeting and campaign-finance laws and redoubled its effort to codify conflict of interests. Like the State of New York does (and the same “abuses” occur). More bureaucracy to remedy the inevitable flaws of bureaucracy.

Rhoda Klapp
Rhoda Klapp
1 year ago

Has it ever occurred to the NYT that US politicians leave office with more money than they arrive with? How do they think that happens? Perhaps somebody could explain to them what a lobbyist does?

1 year ago
Reply to  Rhoda Klapp

No explaining needed! The Times editorialists are part of the same racket and receive their share of exclusive access to lucrative deals. It’s never a scandal, as their finances are not part of the public record. Their Washington Bureau staff receiving all those anonymous leaks, and putting their “journalistic” careers on the line by writing stories based on the leaks, do too.

1 year ago

Dear Mr Worstall

So what is the difference between government and organised crime?

One is illegal.

Neither is lawful.

The Times writer doesn’t seem to know how the eu works. Members of the eu parliament do not write laws; that’s the job of thousands of unaccountable bureaucrats who write them for the commission. The elected ‘parliament’ is there to agree with everything the commission vomits forth.

Have we nearly left yet?


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