It's, like, the system, man

— Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber drips with disgust at Congressman Billy Tauzin's whoring:
For the last couple of weeks, there’s been a bidding war between the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) for Tauzin’s services. The MPAA had paid its outgoing head lobbyist, the unlamented Jack Valenti, more than $1 million a year. Apparently this wasn’t nearly enough for Tauzin, who held out for a substantially larger sum – and got it from PhRMA. As it happens, PhRMA is a particularly unpleasant organization – it played a dishonorable role in the AIDS drugs licensing for Africa controversy a few years ago, and has been up to its eyeballs in other controversies and backroom arrangements, up to and including the recent Medicare porkfest. Needless to say, Tauzin has been assiduous in his efforts to protect the interests of big pharma and the content industry over the last couple of years; it’s hard to believe that his grossly inflated salary is unconnected to services previously rendered. The phenomenon of Congressman-turned-lobbyist is hardly a new one; but the openness and extent of the greed on display is unusual, even for Washington.
I agree: sickening. I do hope Henry will accept this as pointing to a general lesson about the deep structural relationship between the motivations of political leaders and very large governments with vast regulatory powers. I've noticed that some people seem to think that if only the leaders or the regulations were different, then all would be well. Which is, I guess, a cute idea.

Author: Will Wilkinson

Vice President for Research at the Niskanen Center

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