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Ralph Nader > In the Public Interest > Commercially Exploiting Discretion is Big Business

Washington, DC — The reasons why dictatorships will never have the economic growth of democracies are sometimes unconventional.

A long line of lobbyists’ aides waiting outside the place, where the government was selling its $16 volume containing Fleagan’s tax proposals last month, was followed by a longer line of lobbyists waiting to get inside the House Ways and Means Committee hearings on the proposals a few days later.
Eureka! Another mini-industry was launched. Hordes of tax lobbyists need more paper, secretaries, cabs, entertainment services, airplane tickets, and mass mailings to alert the faithful. The Washington area GNP curve takes another upward spurt.

The commercialization of open conflict over policy issues is quite alien to dictated societies. But in our country lobbying by corporations at the local, state and federal level is a multi-billion dollar business which employs tens of thousands of people.

Gobbledygook, or unintelligible jargon, is a well practiced art that supports many people in the legal, bookkeeping, accounting, banking and insurance industry. After all, who is going to translate such a miasmic complexity into plain English -‑ for a price that is.

Plain language laws have been passed in a number of states in recent years. Guess who has opposed them, with a few outstanding exceptions. Lawyers, banks, insurance companies, that’s who. How else can they make so much money unraveling such gobbledygook if they were not free in the first place to entangle or confuse the poor consumer or buyer with all that fine print.

In the land of juntas or commissars, there is jargon, but its clarification is not usually available nor commercialized. One does not need to understand, only to obey. This behavior keeps these nations from substantial economic growth and employment.

In nations headed by bosses who can do no wrong, dictation replaces discretion. Oops. Another source of economic growth down the drain.

In our country, commercially exploiting discretion is a really big business undertaking. Look at all those services, seminars, newsletters and books telling millions of taxpayers and companies how they can pay less in taxes. Or all those groups urging citizens to take advantage of their Constitution and laws to become involved in making their community a better place. There are lots of office space and mass mailings for those goals.

Then there is the omnipresent “meeting industry” finding ways to create more meetings, conventions, conferences and thinking up all kinds of ideas to get people there. Tyrannies don’t like spontaneous meetings — controlled rallies hailing the tyrant once or twice a year in the central square are quite enough. Otherwise there are strict laws against any gathering composed of more than three people. No way these regimes are going to boom their economies.

Crime in totalitarian societies is not supposed to exist, but the rulers know better. Still, they do not like to equip the populace with measures and technology for alert and self-defense. Such know how and materials just may be turned to other purposes.

In the good ole USA, crime is rampant in the streets and in the company suites, Politicians run against crime; companies offer closed circuit TV and alarm services for millions of homes and apartment buildings; stores sell squirting aerosols and hundreds of other anti-crime devices, Insurance companies thrive on crime insurance whether it be burglary or embezzlement, Television and film producers issue a stream of crime-stopper stories for audiences who go from reading headlines to absorbing fiction with nary a skip of a beat.

So to all those corporate powers and anti-civil libertarian enthusiasts who want to dominate and rule against people with whom they have quarrels, please relax and reflect a moment. There is another, down to earth rationale for democracy. It’s good for business.