These are the acts of a government that is no longer a representative of the people.
It’s funny how obviously incentives play a role in people’s actions, such that you get the same response to the same incentive even though the issues at hand are completely distinct. Consider Katherine Gregg’s recent article in the Providence Journal after the attorney general confirmed that the RI Convention Center can no longer hide its payroll behind the fact that it is managed by a private company:
… the first-ever release of the payroll of this “quasi-public” arm of state government reveals a who’s who of sons, nephews, in-laws and others who share the family names of key players in the labor movement, past and present …
For more than a year, lawyers for the Convention Center Authority and the private staffing company, SMG, fought efforts by The Journal to obtain the employee names and pay.
Thanks to transparency laws combined with the ease of using technology to sift through and present this sort of data, it’s no longer convenient to hide patronage jobs within government, so the insiders spin off a “quasi-public” to keep its payroll off the state’s books and then manage it with a private company so even a direct Access to Public Records Act (APRA) request can’t touch it.
The ability to hand out patronage jobs is there, so the incentives are to get personal gain from it and, in turn, to hide that activity.
Now turn to an article by Ryan Saavedra on The Daily Wire:
… Joe Biden’s administration is reportedly considering working with private firms to monitor “extremist chatter by Americans online” because the federal government is legally limited to what they can do without a warrant.
The report said the federal government is also banned from using false identities to gain access to private messaging apps and groups. The government can scan public social media profiles.
The ability to collect vast information about Americans is there, so the incentives are for the government to gather it and, in turn, to use it for political purposes. If the law has hard barriers, agencies will look for soft ways around them. One sees this again and again, whether it’s Hillary Clinton’s private email server or government buying positive coverage by making PR part of the journalist’s career path or the use of quasi-public agencies to enter into debt for which regular government agencies would have to go to the people for direct approval.
No amount of campaign finance or transparency regulation will make this go away. Indeed, the more we regulate, the more advantage we give to those with resources to find ways around the rules. A billionaire can buy a politician with the promise of a lifetime of no-show jobs… all legal… but a handful of middle-class families can’t overtly pay somebody to run for office. A government labor union can set up a patronage-job scheme on the edge of government, but an insurgent politician is taking risks by bringing trusted advisers along with him or her.
The only way to reduce the corruption is to reduce the profitability of corruption, which means reducing the power of government.