In the woods, sometimes you eat the bear: sometimes the bear eats you. In politics, sometimes the voter is the boss; sometimes the voter is a dupe. The outcome is largely determined by the following fundamental principle of special-interest politics, developed in the book:
• When the voters know what they want, they get it: they are then the bosses.
• When the voters are clueless, the moneyed special interests, who make large campaign contributions, get what they want; the moneyed special interests are then the bosses and the voters are the dupes.
When voters were clueless, moneyed special interests prevailed:
• Deregulation of S&Ls in 1982, which led to the S&L financial crisis and bailout
• Deregulation of banking in 1999, which contributed to the Recession of 2007-2009, the bank financial crisis, and the bank bailout
When voters knew what they wanted, they got it:
• Cleaner air: air pollution controls have been continually strengthened over time
• Social welfare: adequate but not overly generous short-term safety net for the poor
Then there's the President...
The President sometimes pursues his own agenda, for good or ill, apart from what the voters or moneyed special interests want.
• Presidents Truman, Johnson, and George W. Bush led the country into disastrous wars.
• President Carter pursued a deregulation agenda that benefited the public.
• President Reagan, for several years, successfully pushed for increases in defense expenditures.
• President Clinton failed but President Obama succeeded in getting legislation for health care reform.
Notwithstanding the vicissitudes of special-interest politics, American democracy has muddled through and done quite well over the long haul.
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About the Author
Since 1983, Jeff has been a consultant, primarily on public-policy issues in telecommunications. He has consulted for a wide range of special interests and government organizations, in the United States and a dozen other countries.
Jeff was a pioneer in the development of network economics. His original article was reprinted in 2011 with an introduction by Richard Schmalensee entitled "Jeffrey Rohlfs' 1974 Model of Facebook."
In 2001, he wrote Bandwagon Effects in High Technology Industries, which was nominated for the Book-of-the-Year award in its field.
Jeff plays golf and tennis at a decidedly amateur level. He also sings in Encore Chorale, plays clarinet in New Horizons Band, and plays the ancient board game of go.