This one development, of legal methods to corrupt government decision-makers, has had a multitude of effects, from the proliferation of loopholes in legislation, to compliant judges, to tame regulators who identify more with the industries that they are supposed to regulate than with the public interest, to generals and admirals and Pentagon bureaucrats who decide what weapon systems to buy and then go on to become millionaires working for the companies they bought the weapons from. The list goes on for quite a bit, unfortunately, and the odor becomes progressively more rotten the more you dig into the subject.
If the effects of this corruption were mere theft from the government, that would be one thing – money would just disappear from government coffers into private hands, but no real wealth would be destroyed. But, far more often, special interests tweak government behavior in their favor, which results in much more damage than mere theft – it can easily mean, for example, that in order to get a monetary gain of $50 million, a company or industry’s lobbying efforts result in damage to the economy as a whole of $500 million or more. This forcing of external costs onto the public is slowly eroding the American system as a whole – it eats away at the economy, at our human capital, our physical capital, our productivity, and (especially) our social capital.
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