With the appointment of Barbara Underwood, New York’s solicitor general, to the position of interim NY State Attorney General, the public aspect of the Eric Schneiderman imbroglio has come to a close. As a reminder, Schneiderman, a self-styled champion of the women’s rights movement, plunged stunningly from grace after accusations of physical violence against women he dated came forth. While not admitting wrongdoing, Schneiderman tendered his resignation mere hours after the accusations hit the press.

It’s common, and almost inevitable, that when someone of questionable character or behavior departs a position of power, dirt gets revealed. Sure enough, it seems that his behavioral inadequacies were an open secret. NYPost gossip columnist Cindy Adams said as much, Donald Trump, who existed for decades in the New York legal ecosystem, dropped a tweet five years ago hinting so, and the folks at City Journal suggest that the writing on the wall was there for anyone who cared enough to read. Schneiderman, however, seems to have benefited from a combination of the Joy Behar Rule and the power of his position, and thus skated until the #metoo movement gave his (alleged) victims enough confidence to come forth.

Concurrently, a bit of news that flew under the radar of most feeds the premise that power protects wrongdoers. A state Senator of California, Leland Yee, who made a name for himself as a gun control advocate, was recently sentenced to 5 years in prison for gun trafficking. One might wonder if his gun-control advocacy was directly tied to his gun-running, but I suspect mere dissonance, a disregard for hypocrisy, and greed trumping morality over Machiavellianism. The fact that his sordid tale did not garner broader headlines probably has something to do with his being on the “correct” side of the gun issue (see: the Joy Behar Rule).

A quick trip via the WABAC machine brings us to the tale of another former New York State Attorney General (and Governor), Eliot Spitzer. Prior to his rise to the Governor’s mansion and subsequent hard fall when his Client #9 hypocrisy came to light, Attorney General Spitzer had styled himself as the “Sheriff of Wall Street.” He alleged misdeeds by business titans and financial houses, and used the enormous intimidation power of his office and a sympathetic and compliant press to leverage big fines and admissions of bad behavior – all without setting foot in court to prove his accusations. Yet, to this day, the bullying aspect of his “sheriff” efforts gets dismissed or actually applauded by the folks who like that he did “what he had to do” to bring the (presumably) “evil” bankers to heel. Again, the Joy Behar Rule.

The premium cable network Showtime has been running a great series called Billions, starring Damian Lewis as a hard-charging hedge fund billionaire and Paul Giamatti as a US Attorney General determined to bring him down. The show definitely seeks out to portray both men as willing to do “what it takes” to achieve success. Lewis’s character Bobby “Axe” Axelrod trades on insider information and a market manipulation stunt for self-benefit, and Giamatti’s character Chuck Rhoades leverages the enormous power of his office (and breaks the law) in order to go after someone he “knows” is guilty but can’t convict via legal and above-board means. The show clearly depicts the lure and peril of enormous, government-backed power, both in the backroom horse trading and in actual shenanigans, and makes it abundantly clear that there’s nothing “better” about our public servants than their private-sector counterparts.

Then there’s the recent revelation about the coincidentally named Ben Rhodes, who orchestrated the selling of a narrative that advanced the Iran Obama deal to a gullible and compliant press, which proves, for the umpteen millionth time, that the default premise of the public servant as honest, selfless do-gooder is a naive fiction.

Decades back, the premier dystopian science fiction titles focused on too-big government. Animal Farm, 1984, Fahrenheit 451, Brave New World are among the most well-known cautionary tales that also include the recently serialized The Man In The High Castle and The Handmaid’s Tale. However, more modern dystopian SF tends to portray a world where corporations are the big, controlling evil, with governments, such as they are, being the puppets and tools. This genre reeks of wishful thinking, as if the portrayal of Evil Corp will convince people to vest more power in government.

What lovers of liberty know, and what too many others refuse to acknowledge, however, are two crucial points:

One, Big Business and Big Government are far more often best pals rather than adversaries and polar opposites. Indeed, Big Business’s chief rival and regulator is the free market, not the government.

Two, Big Government is a far greater threat than Big Business. Big Business, barring totalitarian-level protections meted out by Big Government, faces the eternal pressure of market forces, and countless business juggernauts have fallen by the wayside over the decades. Since 1955, when Forbes Magazine first issued its 500 list, 88% of the firms that made the cut have fallen off the list. Meanwhile, government and its programs continue to grow and multiply, success or failure notwithstanding. The USPS, Amtrak, and Head Start are three major failures that continue to be supported. The VA, the DOE, the DEA, and the TSA are agencies that suck up huge amounts of money and produce terrible and worsening results. Every day brings us a tale of another government boondoggle that has burned mountains of taxpayer money. And, seemingly every week, we hear of yet another powerful politician caught up in a scandal.

Yet, so many continue to seek to invest power into government and the sociopaths that populate its highest echelons, while being distrustful to their core of the private sector and of the (widely demonstrated) ability of market forces to regulate behavior therein.

What’s the moral of all these stories? Don’t trust politicians with too much power, even if you expect them to do the things you like. The less power they have, the fewer things you don’t like they’ll be able to do, and the less you have to worry about them.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.


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