Wednesday, 21 February 2018

NZ's new aristocracy of pull






New Zealand's revolving door of political lobbyists -- political insiders shuttling back and forth between well-paid jobs in government and even-better paid jobs with private lobbyists -- has finally got the attention of political watchers. Turns out it's endemic, bighlighted by the various former, current and intermittent chiefs of staff peddling their contacts with influence:
This week a perfect example of the "revolving door" of government officials and lobbying has occurred. The Prime Minister's Chief of Staff has shifted from the Beehive to a lobbying firm. Lobbyist Gordon Jon Thompson, has been a political manager – or "spin doctor" – and lobbyist for a long time, and shifts between government and private sector jobs with apparent ease... Another interesting – but less contentious – "revolving door" story [is] another former chief of staff, National's Wayne Eagleson – see: Former National Party chief of staff joins firm of Labour's top advisers...
    Thompson, who has been a lobbyist and PR professional for many years, worked with Jacinda Ardern last year, helping prepare her for the TV leaders debates. And then when she formed the new government she invited Thompson to be Labour's Chief of Staff, despite the fact that he would remain a lobbyist and director of his Thompson Lewis firm.
    Walters' article states, "Thompson finished a four-month stint as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's acting chief of staff, while chief of staff Mike Munro was recovering from illness." This means Thompson was made Chief of Staff by the Prime Minister, with the full knowledge that he would then return to his lobbying business, where he would be involved with clients with an interest on influencing the new government. Indeed, he finished work last Friday in his job as the number one adviser to Jacinda Ardern, and resumed his lobbying job yesterday.
The issue immediately raises issues about potential conflicts of interest....
Sure does. And it's only the tip of the iceberg, with former MPs and MPs' wives and husbands and party hacks selling their proximity to power, often swapping roles with former advisors from the same or similar lobbyists.

Not to mention former ministers and prime ministers selling themselves to the folk they formerly regulated.
Whatever the sector, a Cabinet minister who legislates/regulates in ways which are welcomed by the regulated industry are much more likely to find the post-politics doors open than one who regulates in a way the industry finds costly or inconvenient.
Selling themselves -- and at a very nice price thank you very much -- not for what they know (which in most cases is risible), but for whom.

Conflict of interest? The phrase, for these vermin, is simply meaningless. More like: "L'état! C'est ma source de profit."

Token hand-wringing against the practice appears at places like No Right Turn, bewailing that "these former public officials are seeking to leverage the knowledge and contacts they built up in their highly paid public careers for private profit"-- and he calls for "rules" around this practice. And just who does this big-government blogger think will be writing the rules?

PJ O’Rourke points out that when legislation proscribes what is bought and sold, the first things to be bought will be the legislators -- and the more legislation is written the higher the demand, and the higher the price.

Ayn Rand called it simply “the aristocracy of pull.”
One of Ayn Rand's best scenes in Atlas Shrugged has her hero Francisco d'Anconia complete the statement of one of her villains with a surprise ending. Villain James Taggart states:
We will liberate our culture from the stranglehold of the profit-chasers. We will build a society dedicated to higher ideals, and we will replace the aristocracy of money by--
"the aristocracy of pull," interjects d'Anconia.
This, you should be aware, is the price of big government -- it's simply what modern government looks like. If you don't like it, then perhaps you should reconsider your support for Government-With-Everything. Because this is the essential sauce it comes with.


[Cartoon by Wiley Miller]

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