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Most would agree that power corrupts. Some believe that greater wealth begets power, yet they cling to a naive hope that larger government can protect against “evil” private accretion. These well-intentioned souls forget that those holding power in government will not always have preferences that match their own. More importantly, they fail to account for the real-world implications of concentrating power in the public sector, conveniently forgetting that “control” itself is a problematic solution to the perceived “problem” of private power. They would grant ever more controlling authority to an entity possessing the police power, managed by politicians, employees and technocrats with their own incentives for accretion. Public administrative power is often exercised by rule-making, asserting more control over private affairs. It usually results in the granting of favors and favorable treatment, compensable in various ways, to certain private parties. Big government begets big rent seeking and the subjugation of market discipline in favor of privilege. It’s a devil’s playground.

The confusion of the statists, if I can be so charitable, now extends to the desire for control over the related issues of wealth inequality and political contributions. John Cochrane, an economist from the University of Chicago, has an interesting piece on these topics on wsj.com entitled What the Inequality Warriors Really Want(if this is gated, try googling the author and title). He points out some of the obvious hypocrisies of those calling for more government control, including limits on political spending:

… the inequality warriors want the government to confiscate wealth and control incomes so that wealthy individuals cannot influence politics in directions they don’t like. Koch brothers, no. Public-employee unions, yes. This goal, at least, makes perfect logical sense. And it is truly scary.

The presumption that redistribution of income and wealth can be achieved at low cost ignores the terrible incentives that such policies create for both the nominal losers and winners. In the real world, redistribution is not zero-sum; it is negative sum with compounding. Steve Simpson of the Ayn Rand Institute has some further thoughts on Cochrane’s piece as well as the work of Thomas Piketty, the new intellectual light of the redistributive statists.