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The irony of Leftist complaints about conflicts of interest in big government

The Left insinuates that conflicts of interest that are sure to arise now that a greedy capitalist is in a position of governmental power. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

December 19, 2016

When a big-business tycoon with business dealings around the world takes advantage of an opportunity to enrich himself, there is doubtless a critic from the Left who will deplore the action as an exploitation of capitalism and the little guy in the free market. It’s no surprise that when President-elect Trump, himself a billionaire, nominates his peers in wealth to cabinet positions the Left insinuates that conflicts of interest that are sure to arise now that a greedy capitalist is in a position of governmental power.

But of course, the Left have every right to do so. The lurking media is more than happy to saddle up and carry that torch into primetime news.

The irony is that this abrupt recognition is precisely the danger conservatives have warned of with respect to the inherently self-interested vehicle that is the federal government.

A bureaucracy far removed from its constituents, acting on insights privy to the few and specifically interested, lends itself to an innate bias away from what benefits general society.

In other words, there should be concern that Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, and others could peddle their position of power to further enrich themselves. But where is the scrutiny for the millions of federal employees spanning what seems to be countless government departments and agencies with interests often in conflict with another agency in Washington? Of course, there is no way to measure accountability for each individual employee. Not in this government. Nor are there any objective obligations that demonstrate clearly the benefits to society that a cabinet department must meet, all while having zilch consequences when not meeting a budget.

But the average federal worker, they say, is a well-intentioned civil servant working for the greater good. True patriots.

As Milton Friedman said, “Sincerity is a much overrated virtue. We are all capable of persuading ourselves that what is good for us is good for the country.”

Never mind examining the many highly-influential government bureaucrats, albeit obscure by name to the masses, who use their status to serve a special interest that will later be rewarded by more power in government or private sector wealth using their intimate connections. Or what about the well-intentioned Environmental Protection Agency worker administering legislation in such a way that is in direct contrast to the commensurately well-intentioned official at the Department of Energy supplying their services for the same public good?

Meanwhile, as ineffectiveness sustains, expenditures compound and the bureaucrats funnel taxpayer dollars through tubes with holes.

My point is not to denigrate well-intentioned civil servants. We must shine a brighter light on the mechanisms in an inept government that compound market failure with altruistic theory that does not translate to practical results for all. To oversimplify, is it not surprising that it is widely accepted that public schooling, Social Security and healthcare are in shambles despite overwhelming and steady increases in expenditures?

Shine a light on Trump’s Cabinet choices. But remember, the light you shine is one mere fixture in the large, ever-growing, bloated and all-encompassing mansion that is our collective federal house.

Only those who live in the house and their lingering neighbors benefit. Why should I finance the expansion of it if I’m not invited to the party?