Tag Archives: rent seeking

Tim Carney Knows How Washington Works

Tim’s latest column, “Bail them out, regulate them, then work for them,” is a must-read.

Amy Friend, a former staffer for Sen. Chris Dodd, played a large role in writing the Dodd-Frank financial regulation bill. And she just got a new job at a lobbying firm. Tim explains:

There are two types of people on K Street: access people, who can get you in the door; and policy people, who know what’s on every page of every relevant bill and regulation. Friend is the latter. While business will dry up for other Dodd alumni on K Street, Friend is valuable because — to quote one Republican lobbyist — “she knows what’s on page twenty-three-[bleep]ing-hundred of that bill,” and every other page, too.

In other words, Friend didn’t just write a landmark piece of legislation — she wrote her meal ticket.

Tim doubts that Friend is corrupt. But her story is very common in Washington. Lobbying wouldn’t be such a booming business if regulation wasn’t, too. And the revolving door between the Hill and K Street can be very profitable, even when no corruption is involved. Most people forget that regulators act just as self-interestedly as the people they regulate.

Antitrust as Corporate Welfare for Aggrieved Competitors

Wayne Crews and I have an article in today’s American Spectator about the antitrust crusade against Intel. Our key points:

-An FTC picking winners and losers is not capitalism. It is crony capitalism.

-Chips in “Wintel” desktop computers increasingly constitute just one subset of a vast semiconductor market. Only a small fraction of the chips in non-PC devices are Intel’s — and these devices are where the future lies.

-Regulators’ charges against Intel have changed over the years, but their verdict always remains the same: guilty. Suspicious.

-We’d be better off prosecuting the DOJ and the FTC for colluding against free enterprise.

In-Flight Rent-Seeking

An article in this month’s Info Tech & Telecom News quotes me about proposed stimulus funding for an in-flight broadband provider.

My take: it’s corporate welfare.

Regulation of the Day 68: Ironing Tables

ironing table

Regulation begets rent-seeking. When government assumes the power to regulate imports, domestic firms will lobby to use that fact to their advantage.

Case in point: Home Products International (HPI), an American company, makes ironing tables. So does Hardware, a Chinese company. I personally have no idea which firm makes the better ironing table. That’s for consumers to decide.

Or at least it should be for consumers to decide. But it doesn’t always work that way in practice. HPI seems to have already made that decision for us.

At HPI’s request, the International Trade Administration will continue to add anti-dumping duties to the price of the Chinese-made ironing tables. That way HPI doesn’t have to worry as much about competing. Sorry, consumers.

Is this fair? Of course not. But all too often, it is how regulation works.

Net Neutrality and Rent-Seeking

Here is a letter I sent recently to The Wall Street Journal:

September 22, 2009

Editor, The Wall Street Journal
200 Liberty Street
New York, NY 10281

To the Editor:

Your article “Bad News for Broadband” (editorial, Sept. 22) hints at, but does not make, a key point: net neutrality proposals are driving a wedge between service providers like AT&T and content providers like Google.

Strange, is it not? Their interests are actually closely aligned. If AT&T upgrades its network, Google benefits from the increased bandwidth. If Google improves its products, AT&T benefits from increased demand for broadband.

Net neutrality proposals give companies the incentive to seek rents at each other’s expense when they could be benefiting from each other’s innovations instead. This must be music to the ears of lobbyists, but how sad for consumers.

Ryan Young
Fellow in Regulatory Studies
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Washington, D.C.