Snowstorms in DC

Imagine a giant snowstorm shuts down Washington, D.C. for about a week. Essential services still struggle to function but most day-to-day activity is suspended. My instinct in this scenario would be to celebrate this gift from the Fates: the less activity goes on in D.C. the better, from a political economy standpoint. What goes on in Congress, Congressional offices, etc., is generally harmful to a free society, so its temporary suspension is a temporary reprieve.

But there is another angle to the story. If we consider that firms like KBR have so much more at stake in what goes on in Washington than, say, the American Association of Made-Up Nonsense (AAMUN), the picture gets a little hazier. KBR reps will fly in private planes, while AAMUN’s will fly business class if they’re lucky. KBR probably has standing accommodations for their reps, while AAMUN’s have to check in and out of hotels. We might think of AAMUN as a marginal lobbying group. For them, as lobbying activity becomes even slightly more difficult, they will drop off. KBR would stop lobbying in extreme cases as well, but I get the feeling the blizzard we’re imagining is far short of that.

KBR lobbies for things that are good for KBR, and these may not be things that are good for everybody else. AAMUN lobbies in its self-interest too, and the same caveat applies, but what it wants and what KBR wants might counteract each other. In the snowstorm, with AAMUN temporarily out of action there’s nobody there to counteract KBR. Thus we might actually be worse off in this case.

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Author: rfmcelroyiii

Student and instructor of economics.

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