Cronyism:History, Costs, Case Studies & Solutions   Adam Thierer   Senior Research Fellow   Mercatus Center at George Maso...
Purpose of This Presentation1.   Clearly define cronyism2.   Discuss its historical / academic underpinnings3.   Develop a...
What is Cronyism?• Cronyism generally refers to an unnatural and  unhealthy closeness between government and  special inte...
Historical / Academic UnderpinningsCronyism is a relatively new term• Traditionally, corruption was the primary form of cr...
Poly Sci & Econ Influences• Political science critiques   – “interest group politics”   – “client politics” (James Q. Wils...
Common Themes from Critiques• First, when benefits are concentrated and costs are  dispersed (across all taxpayers, for ex...
Common Themes (cont.)• Second, the “public interest theory” of policymaking and  regulation is highly flawed.• The notion ...
A Taxonomy of Cronyism  1.  Monopoly Privileges (ex: franchising, barriers to entry, exclusionary      rights)  2. Regulat...
Dangers / Costs of CronyismSpecific Costs Monopoly Costs: “Deadweight loss” from lack of competitive rivalry. Productive...
As economist Gordon Tullock has summed up:“Drawing the bulk of intelligent and energetic people insociety into an activity...
Costs of Cronyism (cont.)Big Picture / Longer-Term Costs• Undermines the legitimacy of the private sector / capitalism   –...
Case StudiesAgriculture• Sugar program• Ethanol programEnergy• Tennessee Valley Authority• Synthetic Fuels Corp.• Solyndra...
Case Studies (cont.)Defense• numerous “military-industrial complex” case studiesInfrastructure• Highway / construction pro...
Case Studies (cont.)Network Industries• Transportation   – Railroads   – Airlines (protected cartels prior to deregulation...
Emerging High-Tech Case Studies• Apple receiving tens of millions in subsidies and tax credits from Texas to  open a facil...
Solutions (Part 1)The Meta-Solution  – The cronyism problem is inexorably tied up with    the size and growth of governmen...
Solutions (Part 2)Targeted Reforms•   Defunding or depriving those who received special treatment•   Sunsets on programs a...
Solutions (Part 3)Tell the Story!• Get the word out about the costs of cronyism and  these case studies• Again, moral pres...
Mercatus Center Resources• “The Pathology of Privilege: The Economic Consequences of  Government Favoritism: - Matthew Mit...
Additional Resources (Pt. 1)• Gordon Tullock, Arthur Seldon, and Gordon L. Brady, Government Failure:  A Primer in Public ...
Additional Resources (Pt. 2)• George Stigler, “The Theory of Economic Regulation,” Bell Journal of  Economics and Manageme...
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Cronyism: History, Costs, Case Studies and Solutions

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In this presentation, I offer a definition of cronyism, explain its origins, discuss how various academics have traditionally thought about it, outline a variety of case studies, and then propose a range of solutions.

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Cronyism: History, Costs, Case Studies and Solutions

  1. 1. Cronyism:History, Costs, Case Studies & Solutions Adam Thierer Senior Research Fellow Mercatus Center at George Mason University November 2012
  2. 2. Purpose of This Presentation1. Clearly define cronyism2. Discuss its historical / academic underpinnings3. Develop a taxonomy of types of cronyism4. Explain the dangers / costs of cronyism5. Identify notable case studies6. Consider possible solutions7. Offer additional resources 2
  3. 3. What is Cronyism?• Cronyism generally refers to an unnatural and unhealthy closeness between government and special interests – “Cronyism is the substitution of political influence for free markets” - David R. Henderson• cronyism is a by-product, or subset of, a much bigger problem: government-granted privileges or government favoritism – Simply stated, someone is getting special treatment at the expense of others thanks to political connections 3
  4. 4. Historical / Academic UnderpinningsCronyism is a relatively new term• Traditionally, corruption was the primary form of cronyism that concerned political scientists, economists, and journalists• But corruption is merely one extreme variant (or by-product) of cronyism• We tried to address on type of cronyism in the 19th century where government jobs were given to family members and friends through the Pendleton Act.• Political scientists and economists have a long history of critiquing cronyism by other names… 4
  5. 5. Poly Sci & Econ Influences• Political science critiques – “interest group politics” – “client politics” (James Q. Wilson) – “iron triangles” (Theodore Lowi) – “revolving doors”• Economic critiques = “Economic theory of regulation” (which countered the “public interest theory” of regulation) – Chicago school: “capture theory” (Stigler) & corporatism (Friedman) – Public choice school: “Rent seeking” (seeking of favors) & “rent extraction” (granting of favors) 5
  6. 6. Common Themes from Critiques• First, when benefits are concentrated and costs are dispersed (across all taxpayers, for example), we can expect groups to form to take advantage of those benefits.• Those bearing the dispersed costs will have less of an incentive to form groups to counter those receiving the benefits.• This explains why some government programs and regulations become so entrenched and why rent-seeking self- perpetuates.• (These insights flow from Mancur Olson’s 1965 book, The Logic of Collective Action) 6
  7. 7. Common Themes (cont.)• Second, the “public interest theory” of policymaking and regulation is highly flawed.• The notion that lawmakers and regulators are always enlightened and benevolent actors who would intervene to correct supposed market failures and “serve the broad social goal of maximizing social welfare” or other “public interest” objectives, is at odds with empirical reality.• Quite often, the opposite is true: They often act to satisfy the private interest of politically favored players at the expense of the public. 7
  8. 8. A Taxonomy of Cronyism 1. Monopoly Privileges (ex: franchising, barriers to entry, exclusionary rights) 2. Regulatory Privileges (ex: licensing, limits on entry, price / rate guarantees) 3. Subsidies 4. Loan Guarantees 5. Tax Privileges 6. Bailouts 7. Expected Bailouts 8. Tariffs and Quotas on Foreign Competition 9. Noncompetitive Bidding 10. Multiple PrivilegesSource: Matt Mitchell, “The Pathology of Privilege: The EconomicConsequences of Government Favoritism” (Mercatus Center WorkingPaper, July 2012) 8
  9. 9. Dangers / Costs of CronyismSpecific Costs Monopoly Costs: “Deadweight loss” from lack of competitive rivalry. Productive Inefficiencies: When shielded from competition, firms get lazy and less efficient. Unproductive entrepreneurship: Cronyism incentivizes firms to excel at political entrepreneurship over market entrepreneurship Inattention to Consumer Desires: When shielded from competition, organizations worry more about pleasing policymakers than the consuming public. Distributional Effects: Consumers pay higher prices or get lower-quality goods and services. Loss of Innovation and Diminished Long-Run Economic Growth: More cronyism = less innovation in general; can limit long-term growth potential. 9
  10. 10. As economist Gordon Tullock has summed up:“Drawing the bulk of intelligent and energetic people insociety into an activity that has no social product, or mayhave negative social product, is more important inexplaining the stagnation of these societies than thedirect social cost of the rent seeking... …lobbyists in Washington… are very intelligent andenergetic people… They are the kind of people we wouldlike to have driving forward in production. Most, however,are on the other side — seeking special privilege.Unfortunately this collection of highly intelligent andenergetic people who could make real contributions tosociety are reducing its efficiency.”
  11. 11. Costs of Cronyism (cont.)Big Picture / Longer-Term Costs• Undermines the legitimacy of the private sector / capitalism – True capitalism is anti-cronyist by nature – True capitalism hinges on mutually beneficially gains from voluntary exchange – Cronyism, by contrast, skews that balance in someone’s favor at the expense of others – It is important to note that cronyism exists in every economic form of society, including socialism and communism• Undermines the legitimacy of government / democracy – lost “social trust”• Moral hazard (reducing self-reliance / personal responsibility) 11
  12. 12. Case StudiesAgriculture• Sugar program• Ethanol programEnergy• Tennessee Valley Authority• Synthetic Fuels Corp.• Solyndra• Electric cars (Tesla)Financial sector• Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac• Wall Street bailouts 12
  13. 13. Case Studies (cont.)Defense• numerous “military-industrial complex” case studiesInfrastructure• Highway / construction programs• Stadium & convention center dealsIndustrial / Manufacturing / Trade• Auto bailouts• Steel tariffs (Bush) / Harley-Davidson protectionism (Reagan)• Ex-Im Bank• State-level economic development offices 13
  14. 14. Case Studies (cont.)Network Industries• Transportation – Railroads – Airlines (protected cartels prior to deregulation) – Taxis (medallions; Uber restrictions)• Telecom & Media – Telecom monopoly cronyist origins & “universal service” programs – Broadcasting special treatment for over 80 years – Cable TV franchising laws 14
  15. 15. Emerging High-Tech Case Studies• Apple receiving tens of millions in subsidies and tax credits from Texas to open a facility outside of Austin• Facebook is also getting tax favors from Texas and property tax exemptions in Oregon• Twitter recently secured massive tax breaks from San Francisco to stay there• LivingSocial recently cut a deal for approximately $32 million in corporate and property tax exemptions in Washington, D.C.• Groupon received $3.5 million in an incentive package from Illinois• Motorola secured over $100 million in tax credits and incentives from Illinois in exchange for a promise to keep its headquarters there• Movie & video game production incentives: hundreds of millions in tax breaks and inducements now flowing to movie and game studios from states across the U.S. 15
  16. 16. Solutions (Part 1)The Meta-Solution – The cronyism problem is inexorably tied up with the size and growth of government – We will never completely constrain cronyism as long as Big Government exists – So, the easy solution = cut the size & discretionary power of gov’t whenever possible! 16
  17. 17. Solutions (Part 2)Targeted Reforms• Defunding or depriving those who received special treatment• Sunsets on programs and policies• Deregulation / end licensing & franchising rights• “BRAC”-like solutions when possible• Limits on congressional delegation of power to less accountable regulatory agencies• Clear property rights & constitutional protections• “MFN clause”-like solutions & multilateral accords• Greater transparency / disclosure measures• Moral pressure & press attention to change social / market norms 17
  18. 18. Solutions (Part 3)Tell the Story!• Get the word out about the costs of cronyism and these case studies• Again, moral pressure & press attention can help change social / market norms and lead to reforms• We need to create a social stigma about cronyism – Make it uncomfortable for companies to engage in rent- seeking – Make it uncomfortable for policymakers to engage in rent- extraction 18
  19. 19. Mercatus Center Resources• “The Pathology of Privilege: The Economic Consequences of Government Favoritism: - Matthew Mitchell (July 08, 2012)• “Crony Capitalism: By-Product of Big Government” - Randall G. Holcombe (Oct 24, 2012)• “The Economics and History of Cronyism” - David R. Henderson (July 26, 2012)• “Gauging the Perception of Cronyism in the United States” - Daniel Sutter (Oct 17, 2012)• “Government Cronyism and the Erosion of the Public’s Trust” - John Garen (Oct 11, 2012)• “Cronyism & Capture in the Information Technology Sector” – Adam Thierer & Brent Skorup (forthcoming, 2013) 19
  20. 20. Additional Resources (Pt. 1)• Gordon Tullock, Arthur Seldon, and Gordon L. Brady, Government Failure: A Primer in Public Choice (Washington, DC: Cato Institute, 2002).• Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965).• Randy T. Simmons, Beyond Politics: The Roots of Government Failure (Oakland, CA: The Independent Institute, 2011).• Fred S. McChesney, Money for Nothing: Politicians, Rent Extraction, and Political Extortion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).• James M. Buchanan, “Politics without Romance,” Policy 19, no. 3, (Spring 2003), 13-18. 20
  21. 21. Additional Resources (Pt. 2)• George Stigler, “The Theory of Economic Regulation,” Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science 2, no. 1 (1971).• Sam Peltzman, “Toward a More General Theory of Regulation,” 19 Journal of Law and Economics (August 1976), 211-40.• Mark Green and Ralph Nader, “Economic Regulation vs. Competition: Uncle Sam the Monopoly Man,” Yale Law Journal 82, no. 5, (April 1973).• Theodore J. Lowi, The End of Liberalism: The Second Republic of the United States (New York: Norton: 2nd Ed., 1969, 1979).• Adam Thierer, “Regulatory Capture: What the Experts Have Found,” Technology Liberation Front, December 19, 2010. 21

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