The Oink, Oink Economy

The trough can be a delightful place, provided you’re one of the diners. The trouble is, it’s not so delightful for the rest of us.

Americans have had to watch as their taxpayer money has gone to subsidize agriculture, favored energy producers, automobile manufacturers and even Wall Street.

The latest prominent figure to take up the pen and say “enough” is Charles G. Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries. As an energy producer, Koch is among those who benefit in part from government largesse (as he acknowledges in his article), but he considers the overall effect to be corrosive.

“Far too many businesses have been all too eager to lobby for maintaining and increasing subsidies and mandates paid by taxpayers and consumers,” Koch writes in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal. “This growing partnership between business and government is a destructive force, undermining not just our economy and our political system, but the very foundations of our culture.”

This was an ailment of democracy that concerned Peter Drucker, too. “The strongest argument against the Ancien Regime, the 18th-century absolute monarchy, was that the king used the public purse to enrich his favorite courtiers,” Drucker wrote in Post-Capitalist Society.  Unfortunately, democracy doesn’t fully prevent such abuses, because politicians can use pork to buy the votes or campaign contributions of favored constituents.

In his op-ed, Koch cites a Rasmussen poll from this year showing that 68% of voters believe “government and big business work together against the rest of us.” Drucker saw such feelings as a threat to democracy. “The pork-barrel state thus increasingly undermines the foundations of a free society,” Drucker warned. “The elected representatives fleece their constituents to enrich special-interest groups and thereby to buy their votes. This is a denial of the concept of citizenship—and is beginning to be seen as such.”

Do you think the United States has become more of a pork-barrel state over the past decade? If so, what should we do about it?