Gummint and Big Bidness

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Yesterday's Wall Street Journal had an editorial by Richard Perle defending his actions. It's an interesting read.

He talks quite seriously about the need for elected and appointed positions to be advised by Big Business, saying "Most often, the people best able to help are professionally involved in the businesses for which the official is responsible". He mockingly suggests that since he has no knowledge about fashion, perhaps he could advise the government on that topic without conflict of interest, since the Times would prevent him from advising in his field of expertise (I'll call it expertise, without intending to say that he actually knows anything).

It's a tricky question, and then again it isn't. Yes, an official should seek out the advice of people who are familiar with the field. In the case of health care, for instance, it would be silly and irresponsible not to listen to what the insurers have to say. On the other hand, it would be even more silly and irresponsible only to listen to what the insurers have to say. People with the most wealth will always have the easiest access to public officials, and it is part of the job of the officials to correct for that. This administration does not seem even to understand that (Not that the previous one did a good job of it, but it seemed to me that it was a matter of weakness rather than ignorance). I can give them no credit for failing to attempt a tricky job that is so important.

Also, and if I have the facts wrong somebody correct me, Perle took three quarters of a million dollars from Global Crossing to advise them on (as he put it) "how it could meet the government's security concerns" about an acquisition. Perhaps, perhaps, that was money well spent by Global Crossing to get expert advice, and that advice was given impartially, and there was never any relationship between Perle and Global Crossing other than that dry financial one. Perhaps. Perhaps Halliburton hired Dick Cheney because they thought he understood the energy business, and not because they thought he had good contacts. Perhaps Our Only President got all those jobs and investment opportunities because of his innate abilities and not his contacts. Perhaps. But I don't think so.

What I'm upset about is the close relationships between Big Business and government officials. I'm upset that personal relationships between those currently in business and those currently in government, many of whom have served in government together, or been in business together, or both, appear to be narrowing the perceptions of government officials until they cannot see anything outside the boardrooms and the war rooms. That's why I'm glad Perle is gone; not because Perle is any different from Snow or O'Neill or Cheney, but because I'm fed up with the lot of them.

Thank you,

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