Monday, April 25, 2011

I want to invest in lobbying

The Big Picture has a nice infographic today that lets you calculate the compound annual growth rate of lobbying expenditure for various industries.  The top spenders have grown at around 10% per annum for the last decade.  That's a pretty booming industry.

If you step back for a second and just look at government lobbying as any other industry, you can see that the basic laws of competitive advantage make this sort of growth inevitable.  Congress consists of only 535 members, which makes it a limited resource; the returns are high; and you can turn a first mover advantage into a durable competitive advantage by making a politician who may be around for many years beholden to you from the start.  In such circumstances, capital will find a way.  That is the magic of the market.  In fact, if I weren't deeply opposed to the very existence of this market, I would be looking to invest.  

If you want to read a well-crafted and very detailed tale about the rise of lobbying as an industry, I can wholeheartedly recommend Robert Kaiser's So Damn Much Money.  Reading about the history of post-war Washington is very illuminating and helps to understand why the system we have now is subtly different from the basic corruption that bedevils government everywhere and always; these days, we have learned to mass produce corruption.


And by the way, all hail a hedge fund manager brave enough to call for public financing of elections.

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