The “Occupy” Movement has increased its activity in recent days, trying to ramp up its protest against “corporate influence” in the American political system. I certainly agree that if the will of a few corporations were to drown out the people’s will, then we would have a serious problem. However, I fundamentally disagree that regulating corporations is the way to solve this problem. The OWS Movement is focused on protesting the wrong people. It is the Congress on E. Capitol Street and the President on Pennsylvania Ave that the protestors should focus on if they want to reduce the corruption that comes with crony capitalism and excessive corporate influence.
By protest the Congress and the President, what I mean to convey is that the regulations that many in OWS wish to impose on corporations to stem their influence would actually make things worse. Think about it. The more government becomes involved in the economy, the more of a vested interest businesses have in influencing policy makers. Because smaller businesses cannot afford this influence, the large corporations are the only ones who get a voice. One could argue that the government could regulate businesses, large and small, to cut their influence out 100%. However, if this were to happen, then the engine of our economy would have no voice in the political system and the policy makers would inevitably create loopholes in those regulations for their own supporters. The solution is to reduce government intervention and regulation of the economy. In fact, I would argue that the only justifiable regulations would be ones that provide for the safety of the consumer (no lead paint in children’s toys for example). I would point out, however, that government does that job quite poorly now (one needs to look no farther than the FDA’s incompetence for proof of that), but that is an issue for another day.
Now, let’s get one thing completely straight: some degree of corporate influence is not necessarily a bad thing. When corporations help to elect representatives who will facilitate economic growth and allow more power to the free market, corporate influence can be good. When corporations collude with a government dead-set on picking winners and losers, however, we enter dangerous territory. If a government is committed to picking the economic winners and losers, then clearly, the corporation that is able to make the biggest donation will be the winner and the small “mom-and-pop” stores will lose out. It is politicians crafting policies that pro-actively favor those who help their campaign who subvert competition, entice crony capitalism, corrupt the free market, and skew the will of the people by giving huge corporations a vested interest in ingratiating themselves with them. Therefore, Occupy Wall Street and all of the other protests that aim to have more “responsible regulations” by government to lessen corporate influence are fundamentally wrong in their approach to solving the problem. By having the government let go of the market, stop micro-managing the economy, and only regulate to provide a guarantee of safety to the consumer, we would actually lessen the perceived need for corporate influence. Corporations’ goals are to maximize profits after all. They will not spend money on politicians, if politicians are stripped of the power to pick the winners.