Monday, July 7, 2008

Bringing Back an Oldie But Goodie

This is a repost of something I wrote back when I started to focus my writing more on my specialty area of coalitions, interest groups, and corruption. Since I didn't have the readership then that this blog has now, and because it is directly relevant to a lot of what I've been writing about in terms of the shifting coalitions of the Left and Right (and also to a post I'm hoping to make in the next day or two), this seems like a good time to repost my rules of interest group politics and corruption, which explain a lot of where I'm coming from. The original post is here. It is my opinion that you cannot understand why political parties and coalitions act the way they do without understanding these rules.

The Laws of Interest Group Politics and Political Corruption

1. There are no such things as "special" and "public" interest groups: anyone seeking a particular outcome in a particular government action is an interest group, pure and simple.

2. Interest groups, even self-described "public" interest groups, seek nothing more or less than the advancement or protection of their leaders' and members' preferred outcomes.

3. Political parties are merely vehicles for the election of interest groups who have chosen to unite under a single coalition. They have no independent ideology of their own; only the collective ideologies of coalition members.

4. The fewer political parties there are relative to the size of the overall population, the more varied the interest groups that make up each political party, and the less coherent the political party's ideology.

5. The larger a political party and the less coherent its ideology, the more the political party affects the ideology of its constituent interest groups and the less the constituent interest groups affect the party's ideology.

6. Politicians, both elected and unelected, cannot remain in power long if they lose the support of a sufficient number of their core interest groups.

7. A politician cannot implement his preferred policies if he is not in power; thus, remaining in power or obtaining power is the primary goal of any rational politician.

8. Corruption cannot exist without government by definition. The more government you have, the more powerful government is, and the more government controls access to scarce resources, the more corrupt the government will be.

9. Most anti-corruption reforms either legitimize corruption or make it worse by driving it underground. In some cases, anti-corruption reforms backfire by creating a never-ending political campaign, increasing the number of favors a politician must grant in order to remain competitive.

10. There is an inverse correlation between corruption and freedom.

11. All politics are interest group politics.

UPDATE: In the comments, Kip points out that my original number 10, "The smaller a relevant population, the less significant corruption will be," is a bit problematic. As I replied there, I did a poor job re-reading my original post. Looking at the original point 10 again, it was very poorly worded, and did an exceptionally poor job of getting its point across. Looking back at it, the point it was trying to get across requires far more nuance than I gave it, so it is a poor candidate for these rules. As a result, I have taken number 10 out. Of course, if I think of a more appropriate way of getting at that point, I will add it back to the list.