Beltway Nationalism

“Lobbyists need something to buy, and legislators need something to sell.” Milton Friedman

Lobbyists have clients who pay them to purchase advantage from legislators who are writing laws that affect them.  Legislators have lobbyists who pay them – in campaign contributions – to create laws that favor specific individuals and businesses that are represented by lobbyists.  Utilizing taxpayer money, both legislators and lobbyists prosper.  And so, Beltway D.C. neighborhoods have become the wealthiest in our nation, and the average Beltway income is directly correlated with the continually increasing number of pages in the federal tax code.   The business value of H.R. Block, the company people pay to figure out their taxes, also correlates with the continually increasing number of pages in the federal tax code.

The Beltway must create, but also hide, the myriad favors and exceptions to special interests that are placed into our federal laws.  And it does.  Congress has become not unlike the Catholic church before the reformation, it sells indulgences –  special exemptions –  from its taxes and laws.  And our politics is transformed. Freedom becomes not freedom from government, but support from government. Opposing taxation becomes suspect.  Special groups are selectively excluded from taxation, while of course still able to vote – we have growing “representation without taxation”.

To satisfy this ‘market’, Congress must continually expand its role.  More and more social issues and inequalities must be conjured and legislated.  And they are.   In this way the nation’s original federalism gives way to a nationalism, a Beltway nationalism. The original Federalists advocated for a national bank, a national currency, a strong chief executive in time of war, and regulation of interstate commerce, but not much more.  They believed in the sovereign power of the states over their local affairs.  The original antifederalists, confusingly named Republicans originally, (and later called Democrats), believed the federalists wanted too much power. They sought to limit federal power, and not just to protect slavery – many of them were against slavery – but their knowledge of european history made them wary of government power.

Today, beltway nationalists, who mostly call themselves Democrats, seek more than a strong central power for defense and commerce, they seek national power in local affairs, too.  They have grown from the Progressive movement, the New Deal, and the Great Society.  Confusingly, today’s federalists – neofederalists? – who mostly call themselves Republicans, are more like the original anti-federalists. They seek to limit national power in local affairs and the economy.  The nationalists have been the most successful.  They have essentially nationalized transportation, public education, food production, medical care, and college education, with the recent nationalization of all college loans.

The Federal Register, the compendium of all federal, bureaucratic rules and regulations, is 20,000 pages long. . . . weekly, and it keeps getting longer.

Old World government, centralized bureaucratic government, has come to the United States.

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