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Google, Facebook spend big on U.S. lobbying amid policy battles (reuters.com)
107 points by theBashShell 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 87 comments



Lobbying is nothing more than legalized corruption. When companies lobby, they do so at the expense of the people and other, smaller, competitors who cannot afford to bribe politicians.

Politicians should craft laws based on what's best for the country and not on what's best for the few corporations that manage to outbribe other companies.

Also, remember when Google complained about lobbyists? Former Google CEO Erc Schmidt even admitted that most laws are written by lobbyists.

>"The average American doesn't realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists" to protect incumbent interests, Google CEO Eric Schmidt told Atlantic editor James Bennet at the Washington Ideas Forum. "It's shocking how the system actually works."

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/10/googl...


That's cool but where are the lines? The problem is that a LOT of lobbying goes on, and we don't know how to allow what, when or why - and no country does it well.

Examples: protests - are they ok? What if they are funded by some group?

What about a concerned citizenry meeting a politician? Is that OK? What if their funding comes from Iran?

It gets real complicated real quickly.

> Politicians should craft laws based on what's best for the country

That seems so simple, but man, that is SOOO complicated. Imagine a law that made life better for 80% of people, but made 20% worse off - should it be implemented? What about 2% better off, 98% worse off, but the worst off 2% amongst us benefited?

That simple sentence fragment is why lobbying, and groups like the NRA and teachers unions, exist and hold so much sway. Many laws affect groups disproportionately, and how we decide who to hurt and why is what politics is, in part, about.

There just aren't any magical, mystical policies where everyone wins, not even things like free trade which has been great for almost everyone on the entire planet.


> That seems so simple, but man, that is SOOO complicated. Imagine a law that made life better for 80% of people, but made 20% worse off - should it be implemented? What about 2% better off, 98% worse off, but the worst off 2% amongst us benefited?

I agree with your premise that it's a hard problem, but I'd add that utilitarian arguments for policy leads to creation of bad short-term policy. Public policy should be focused on the long game of leveling societal playing fields and use short-term tools to ease suffering (stimulus, emergency aid, food stamps, etc).

> There just aren't any magical, mystical policies where everyone wins, not even things like free trade which has been great for almost everyone on the entire planet.

Again, I like your premise but I'd add that the effects of the current form of open trade is still open to historical judgement. Is it great? How does Europe and Asia feel about it?

Anyway, just wanted to add a bit of spice to this discussion - it's interesting.


> Many laws affect groups disproportionately, and how we decide who to hurt and why is what politics is, in part, about.

Let me quote John Rawls with "The Difference Principle" [0] which can indicate some general direction on making laws.

> Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that (a) they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Theory_of_Justice#The_Differ...


The problem with Rawls is that, brought to its logical conclusion, his ideas essentially say that you can all but enslave the most effective people in your society to benefit the least advantaged, so long as they are slightly more advantaged than the single least advantaged member of your society. It sounds nice on paper, but it's essentially endorsing extreme totalitarian socialism. It's the kind of dystopia Kurt Vonnegut was satirizing in Harrison Bergeron [0].

It also complete ignores the rights of the so call "advantaged" class. From the stand point of Social Contract Theory, society exists because it's advantageous to all of its members to give up some rights in order to protect others. If you systematically disadvantage a group of people, especially those who are deemed the most capable and advantaged, you will quickly leave them with no reason to want to be a member of your society. Unless you plan to run an authoritarian dictatorship, you will be left with few citizens other than the disadvantaged, who will suffer for having the others run off. Not to mention that the idea of intentionally systematically disadvantaging an entire class of people is, on its face, disgusting.

There are plenty of other arguments against Rawls, but the primary ones are made by Nozick in Anarchy, State, and Utopia [1], and he can make them better than I can. Rawls is a brilliant philosopher, but his ideas are better left in the realm of thought experiment, and not in government.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrison_Bergeron [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchy,_State,_and_Utopia


Rawls's approach seems to be to say, morally, you don't know in advance which individual you're going to be, and therefore you should arrange society so as to maximize ... to maximize, not the average or expected-value happiness, but the minimum happiness, of the individual you might end up as. So a slight comfort to the worst-off person is worth imposing a significant penalty on everyone else, as long as the penalty isn't so severe as to make someone else worse off than the one person. As if Rawls is extremely risk-averse and thinks this should be the organizing principle of society. If someone took that principle and ran with it, it would probably justify huge amounts of destruction. [1]

Also, consider this interpretation: "The best way to solve everyone's problems is to create the technological singularity, at which point we truly can fix the genetic problems that cause the worst-off person in the world to constantly feel pain; and therefore anything that most efficiently and reliably achieves the singularity is the best long-term option for the worst-off people, even if the short-term aspects of the most efficient approach involve e.g. cutting off all aid to the disabled and euthanizing anyone who's too old to work, nuclear preemptive strikes against "rogue states" that might endanger progress, wiping out all animals and plant species that take up space we could use more efficiently some other way, etc." That obviously carries its own potential justifications of mass destruction. I'm not saying all of those are necessarily the most efficient or reliable approach—e.g. the nuclear preemptive strikes might lead to a worse backlash from the surviving countries—but some of them might be. More importantly, some people might be persuaded that these are the most efficient or reliable approach, and be mistaken. That is a fundamental problem: even if we all agree on a certain set of goals (which is a big if), reasonable people can have very different, mutually exclusive ways that they think are the best way to fulfill them.

Note that "promulgate my philosophy/plan to everyone, and kill all the heretics who don't accept it" is one potential step that could be added to any plan; and it seems like if you did manage to carry it out, it would guarantee success; and if your philosophy/plan is big enough and important enough, it might seem like it's worth doing (and thus it will probably tempt some adherents of every philosophy ever), unless you have, say, principles that say you should never do a thing like that, no matter the apparent benefit.

Raymond argued[2] that such principles can be justified within utilitarianism: you can never be sufficiently certain you're right. If you're right and you kill the wrongthinkers, maybe this gets you there a little faster than if you used more peaceful methods: a slight benefit. If you're wrong and you kill the "wrongthinkers", the consequences are extremely severe. It's worth killing the wrongthinkers if and only if the chance you're wrong is smaller than the ratio of "slight benefit" to "extremely severe". The principle would be, you're not allowed to decide that the chance you're wrong is that small.

That might work. But one way or another, I think you need to have principles that prevent you from knowingly doing these horribly destructive things. I would say anyone without such principles is not civilized; and, from recent revolutionary history, it seems those with strong moral philosophies and no such principles may be dangerously uncivilized. (Note: Stepping outside of civilization may be appropriate in some circumstances. But then you have no right to complain when good civilized people arrest you and punish you.)

[1] This argument is expanded on here (not by me): http://www1.cmc.edu/pages/faculty/ASchroeder/docs/RawlsMaxim...

The citation says: "Surely Rawls wasn’t crazy, so we can conclude that this isn’t how he meant to pursue the argument." Which I don't think is very helpful.

[2] http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=4878


The sticky part is who decides who has what level of advantage.


> That's cool but where are the lines? The problem is that a LOT of lobbying goes on, and we don't know how to allow what, when or why - and no country does it well.

The fact that the alternative isn't figured out I think isn't justification for keeping a broken system. The alternative doesn't have to be perfect, only better. So yeah, there could be protests funded by some group... but that already exists in the current system too. On top of straight up giving money to politicians in exchange for their attention.

> Imagine a law that made life better for 80% of people, but made 20% worse off - should it be implemented? What about 2% better off, 98% worse off, but the worst off 2% amongst us benefited? That simple sentence fragment is why lobbying, and groups like the NRA and teachers unions, exist and hold so much sway. Many laws affect groups disproportionately, and how we decide who to hurt and why is what politics is, in part, about.

I have two things to say about this in general.

1. I'm from outside the US, so maybe we think of politics differently. Where I'm from, we think of what's "right" or "wrong", not really who is benefited or affected so much. I'm from Mexico-- the president recently uncovered massive amounts of corruption and illegal, institutionalized leaching of gasoline out of the state oil company, and so decided to shut down all pipes and distribute gas using guarded trucks.

A whole 5 states or so have had gasoline distribution issues-- there's lines in some gas stations that extend for 4+ hours. Everyone has been negatively affected-- but over three quarters of the country support his measures because it might be a burden, but it's the "right" thing to do.

And I know it's not always as easy to tell what's right and wrong, but ultimately that's the framework, IMO, in which all these conversations should be had-- ethics, not whose life will be better or worse.

2. Lobbying doesn't "need" to exist. Other countries do without it, and much better on a number of fronts it'd seem. Take the "climate debate" that seems to still be raging in the US, even though the rest of the world has pretty much acknowledged there's no such debate. Oil giants are spending $115 million a year to oppose climate policy [1], but there is no "sustainability giants" that can drop $115 million to "counteract" that influence. How can it ever be a fair system if in lobbying only the side with money is represented?

[1]: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/oil-companies-climate-p...


> I'm from outside the US, so maybe we think of politics differently. Where I'm from, we think of what's "right" or "wrong", not really who is benefited or affected so much. I'm from Mexico--

Please. Mexico has 20x the political corruption the US has, and most of the money comes from the cartels, not the big companies building moats.


Care to elaborate on how your hyperbole addresses my point?


There is no moral compass in politics from latin countries, it's all a ruse for power and money.


>The fact that the alternative isn't figured out I think isn't justification for keeping a broken system.

Stop for a second and consider how much pain and suffering has occurred throughout history because of this very idea


so is this just a slippery slope argument saying we should let super-corporations/billionaires write laws just in case a teachers union tries to pass legislation?

>Imagine a law that made life better for 80% of people, but made 20% worse off - should it be implemented? What about 2% better off, 98% worse off, but the worst off 2% amongst us benefited?

Wow it's almost like this is what politics is about. We might as well give up completely because it's way too hard to do math or let people make decisions


I think the argument here is that the platitudes like "no lobbying" and "do what's best for everyone" hide a lot of complexity and are basically meaningless / unhelpful.


Nope, it’s not a slippery slope argument if op is pointing out that there is no rational demarcation between the NRA, a teachers union, a women’s rights organization, and an industry group.

You can counter with a proposed solution if you can think of one. So far nobody has managed to do it.


I understand the point, but I don't accept that no one has a better solution. How about we just making it illegal to bribe politicians with money, regardless of what group is doing it? Why is it that bribery laws we already have on the books should not apply to lobbyists?


It is illegal to bribe politicians with money. There are reams and reams of laws and regulations about what politicians are allowed to accept, from whom, and when. The bribery laws do apply to lobbyists as well.

Really, it's a matter of campaign finance reform. As long as people and corporations can make "donations" to a campaign, it will never go away. Eliminate all independent campaign donations. Allot every candidate a fixed budget from the government. That would probably go a long way towards fixing the problem.

Even then you still have super PACs. Maybe I can't give money directly to Joe Candidate. But can you make a law telling me it's illegal for me to take out an ad saying I support Joe Candidate without throwing out the First Amendment? So far, the Supreme Court says you can't.


Direct corporate contributions to campaigns is illegal. It's also illegal, even under Citizens United, to say "if you do X, we will run adds in favor of your election."


The bribery laws we have on the books do apply to lobbyists; it's just that what lobbyists do isn't bribery. Because corporations are legally prohibited from donating to candidates, the exchange of money is not part of lobbying. When you hear "Google spent $X million lobbying" that means they paid lobbyists $X million to make presentations and submit whitepapers and draft legislation to the staff of legislators. (How do you spend millions of dollars on a PowerPoint presentation? The same way you can spend millions of dollars on a legal filing.)

blub 30 days ago [flagged]

If this is too hard for you it doesn't mean you have to try to make everyone else give up too.


> Lobbying is nothing more than legalized corruption.

Lobbying is talking to your representatives. It's the "petition of Government for a redress of grievances" in the first amendment, often combined with the "right of people peaceably to assemble".

Bribery is a problem with actual laws against it, laws that probably need revision given the quid pro quo is probably too narrow:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_v._United_States

But I don't see lawmakers or voters taking it all too seriously considering they have a habit of supporting politicians with open cases and even convictions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_J._Jefferson#Corruptio...


In parts of Canada, up until recently mayor candidates were free to pocket any leftover campaign contributions. One could be forgiven for confusing this with blatant, but legal, bribery. The rules were only changed about 10 years ago:

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/province-cuts-off-poc...


In US elections, wealthy candidates can loan money to their campaigns and then later pay themselves back from future contributions.


> Lobbying is nothing more than legalized corruption

I’ve lobbied. I took a train to Albany to teach my representatives about an issue. I went with a few other people from an interest group, some of whom couldn’t afford the trip and so had their tickets and hotel stays subsidised by others. This is lobbying.

Representative democracy necessitates lobbying. Representatives with incomplete knowledge must legislate over issues they have no clue about. Outside experts have a clue. The process by which these parties are brought together is lobbying.

It can go wrong, and the pool of experts selected will be biased by each group. Ensuring fairness and transparency is paramount. But expecting lobbying to go away is naïve and betrays a misunderstanding of republican democracy.


Making PowerPoint presentations to lobbyists and suggesting draft language is “legalized corruption?” Would you prefer that laws regulating technology were drafted without input from technology companies?

What exactly do you think lobbying entails?


Let's say I'm a congressman and I meet with a lobbyist. How am I getting bribed?


Post retirement, same congressman get hired as an executive for the company or congressman starts an startup which is brought by the lobbyist company or ... There are far more complex ways for congressmen to receive benefits for accepting lobbyist agenda.

Any action by congressman that doesn't make sense to common mass is result of lobbying. Every human being possesses basic intellect to konw what's good/or not for us and its the greed that persuade them to act differently.


> Every human being possesses basic intellect to konw what's good/or not for us and its the greed that persuade them to act differently.

This is obviously not true because then every voter would support the same policies. You can't even get everybody to agree on defunding public education!


Obviously you aren't going to be able to get everyone to agree on everything, but I think the vast majority of this is simply because people are easily manipulated, and are so prone to group think and jumping on the bandwagon. If it weren't for lobbying and political campaigns trying to tell you what to think, I believe that the vast majority of the public would be much more aligned.


Have you tried to get a group to consensus in an area where there isn't any lobbying or manipulation? People have lots of different ideas about how to do things, informed by different life experiences.

Political disagreement predates lobbying and campaigns by millennia.


>Any action by congressman that doesn't make sense to common mass is result of lobbying. Every human being possesses basic intellect to konw what's good/or not for us and its the greed that persuade them to act differently.

No, the entire reason we need new laws is to deal with new unforeseen situations and complex interactions. “Basic intellect” will very frequently be wrong when it comes to the implementation of health policies, tax policies, trade policies, economic policies, and so on.


- If you've received campaign contributions from the corporation said lobbyist works for, I think it's apparent to everyone how, (you scratch my back...).

- You're giving a citizen which may not even live in your constituency and works for a corporation the kind of access to yourself that you'd never grant a regular constituent.

- Over the decades, an understanding has been built of 'the revolving door', how former government workers switch to the private sector and then come back as lobbyists, utilizing their contacts and friendships to get what their employer wants. Or they come back into government with a massive exit package, while still being loyal to their former employer and vote for wars etc, when then conveniently their 'former' employer can send equipment for etc. Then they switch to the private sector again, collecting millions annually for a position that has no real responsibility.

The notion that there's corruption only when filmed passing banknotes is absurd, there's a reason the notion of intention exists in criminal law.


Let’s say some environmental committee is headed by a Representative from New York. An Environmentalist organization from California wants new legislation to improve air quality across the US. Let’s assume no representatives from California are on the committee.

Does this mean it’s not right for the California organization to lobby the New York rep?

I highly doubt every issue a house rep deals with is about their own constituents.


There's a difference between an organization representing the public interest, (air quality), and some for-profit megacorp looking to maximize profits, often at the expense of public interest.

Pretending there isn't is just dumb.

Also, unless they gave him campaign cash, I doubt they'd even be able to get the same kind of a hearing a corporate donor would, but my solution to this is to not allow any campaign contributions at all and to have public financing of elections, so that there's a greater chance politicians will actually represent what the people want.


No, it's dumb to pretend that only "public interest" organizations want things that are good for the public, while megacorps do not. Our immense prosperity is due to megacorps, not public interest organizations. Indeed, public interest organizations often want to do things that harm the economy, and thus the people. E.g. NIMBY organizations, historical preservation societies, etc.

Also, "corporate donor" is not a thing that exists. Corporations are legally banned from contributing to candidates.


Nowhere did I say that all public interest organizations are positive. Just that in the specific example of OP of air quality they are vs a corp would most likely want to pollute if anything.

Not understanding that is indeed rather dumb.

> Our immense prosperity is due to megacorps, not public interest organizations.

"Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they're living paycheck to paycheck".

I think those people would disagree with you.

P.S. Why do you think there's lack of will among politicians to implement single payer, despite it being majority popular and implemented by practically every developed and developing country in some form?

Why is there no sick leave, maternity/paternity leave in America by law?

Could it be that corporate players don't want these things? Hmm...


"Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they're living paycheck to paycheck".

Since the 10th to 75th percentile household incomes range from $14,000 to $111,000, you can be sure that living paycheck to paycheck has nothing to do with 78% of American workers' material prosperity.


Ok, so would the tens of thousands of people dying or going bankrupt every year due to a (lack of) medical insurance be a better stat for you?

Or perhaps that nearly half of Americans earn less than $30,000 annually?

The point stands.


> Nowhere did I say that all public interest organizations are positive. Just that in the specific example of OP of air quality they are vs a corp would most likely want to pollute if anything.

Yes, and in a lot of cases, pollution serves the public interest more than whatever the public interest organization wants. Making cell phones and microchips is an enormously polluting process, for example.

> "Nearly 80 percent of American workers (78 percent) say they're living paycheck to paycheck".

And prior to the raise of mega-corps, Americans were living harvest-to-harvest. In countries without mega-corps (I come from one), people are subsistence farmers, living at the knife edge of starvation at every moment.

> P.S. Why do you think there's lack of will among politicians to implement single payer, despite it being majority popular and implemented by practically every developed and developing country in some form?

> Could it be that corporate players don't want these things? Hmm...

They have mega-corps in other developed countries too, so no, I don't think that's the reason. I suspect the answer is that the public mood has only shifted in favor of single payer in the last 10 years: https://www.kff.org/slideshow/public-opinion-on-single-payer.... And of course, that: (1) is for the public as a whole, not actual voters who are more conservative on average than the general populace; and (2) does not account for the fact that voters in smaller states, which lean more conservative, have more representation in Congress. You can see these effects from Slide 4. 62% of Republicans polled strongly oppose a national health plan today. Pretty much the entire time that public opinion overall has favored single payer (since 2010), there has been a republican majority in the house. The last time there was a Democrat majority in both chambers (2008-2009), we got the ACA. At that time, a majority of Americans opposed single payer.

Public opinion (adjusted to account for the fact that polls do not directly map onto votes in the House and Senate), directly explains why we don't have single payer.


Am sorry, but this whole comment reeks of delusion.

First of all, it is important to understand that it is not businessmen who created the markets thanks to which we have such "prosperity", it was indeed the state.

Second of all, am extremely supportive of small/medium sized businesses, am not a fan of megacorps. I understand that there are several sectors, which benefit greatly from vertical integration, but these should be few and far between and be under heavy regulation, which is not a case today. I think today's governments still do relatively little to actually incentivize people to start a business, there's still an unhealthy amount of risk and worry involved.

Perhaps you're impressed because you came from a very poor country and this all seems very impressive, I don't know. But why do you think you have many of the rights as a worker that you do today? Precisely because of public interest organizations. And if megacorps are responsible for our "prosperity", why worker compensation has not kept up with the increases in productivity? Why has the minimum wage not only not kept up with inflation, but has not risen at all in a decade? Why when corporate tax breaks are passed and advertised as "the savings will be passed down onto the workers", that has historically never happened? Only executive pay has increased? Ask yourself why you even need the minimum wage in the first place in the U.S.

Since I am not merely impressed by tall buildings, shopping centers and blinking LEDs, my vision is for every Western country to move towards the Nordic model, a strong social democracy.

Guess what? Norway doesn't even have a minimum wage, you know why? Because it has strong unions i.e public interest organizations who negotiate better wages than the minimum one would be, so it is THEM who actually don't want minimum wage there.

And do 45,000 people die and thousands more go bankrupt because of (lack of) medical insurance, like they do in the U.S.? No.

Are they mostly harvesters? No.

Are there no businesses, or even a few properly regulated megacorps in Norway? No.

Do people from Nordic countries usually report themselves as happiest? Yes.


> First of all, it is important to understand that it is not businessmen who created the markets thanks to which we have such "prosperity", it was indeed the state.

The state creates an environment to allow businesses to flourish, but it is businesses that create prosperity. Specifically, mega-corps. Mega-corps invented the transistor, email, computer networking, AIDS cocktails, etc.

> Second of all, am extremely supportive of small/medium sized businesses, am not a fan of megacorps. I understand that there are several sectors, which benefit greatly from vertical integration, but these should be few and far between and be under heavy regulation, which is not a case today. I think today's governments still do relatively little to actually incentivize people to start a business, there's still an unhealthy amount of risk and worry involved.

Small and medium sized businesses don’t have the economies of scale to do really cool things. They may begin as startups, but to have impact they need to scale to mega-corps. You can’t build an iPhone ad a small or medium sized business.

> my vision is for every Western country to move towards the Nordic model, a strong social democracy.

The Nordic model is heavily dependent on mega-corps. It’s more accurate to characterize those countries as practicing welfare capitalism, rather than democratic socialism. The Nordic countries score among the highest in the world in measures of business freedom.

Norway is hard to analyze because of the massive oil money, so let’s use Sweden. Sweden is heavily dependent on large multi-national corporations: http://www.lysator.liu.se/nordic/mirror2/SI/security/economy...

> The Swedish economy is highly dependent on a limited number of very large international companies. In 1992 the United Nations estimated that there are a total of some 35,000 multinational corporations in the world. Of these, about 2,700 have their headquarters in Sweden.

Sweden has low corporate tax rates (21%, the same as under Trump’s tax plan). It has no minimum wage. It has deregulated or privatized the same industries the US has. It has no farm subsidies. It has no inheritance tax. It has school vouchers.

The Swedish tax system is also flatter. The maximum marginal rate kicks in at about $100,000. There is also a 20% VAT, which is borne mostly by people in the lower income brackets. The result is that each third of the income distribution pays about the same percentage of its income in taxes. That’s very different from the US, which singles out the top 25% to pay a higher percentage of its income in total (state plus federal) taxes. Capital gains rates in Sweden are a flat 30%, about the same as the top rates in New York or California under Trump’s tax structure.

Sweden is not a “New Deal” style social democracy. It implicitly recognizes that businesses create prosperity. So it combines a deregulated market economy, with high taxes on individuals to pay for a robust welfare state. The government doesn’t create prosperity; it simply redistributes it once the income from the corporations passes to individuals.

> Because it has strong unions i.e public interest organizations who negotiate better wages than the minimum one would be, so it is THEM who actually don't want minimum wage there.

Unions in Europe are different in important ways from unions in the US, which makes them unpopular in the US. The New Deal Era NLRA enshrines this concept of the “union shop” where if a majority of workers vote to unionize, the union becomes the exclusive bargaining agent in the employer, and union membership is often mandatory. That system is often illegal in Europe, because it violates workers’ freedom of association.

As a result, the public prefers the current weak level of union influence in the US: https://news.gallup.com/poll/241679/labor-union-approval-ste.... 26% of people want to maintain the weak union status quo. Another 29% want them to be weakened even further (so 55% want same or less union influence). A distinct minority, 39% want US unions to have more influence.


> Small and medium sized businesses don’t have the economies of scale to do really cool things. They may begin as startups, but to have impact they need to scale to mega-corps. You can’t build an iPhone ad a small or medium sized business.

To veer off-topic, one neat thing is that the standard for "really cool things" is a moving target. Tools for producing things, like free software, CAD software, CNC machines, etc, make it more and more possible for small firms to accomplish great things, while raising the bar for what we consider great things.


> Tools for producing things, like free software, CAD software, CNC machines, etc, make it more and more possible for small firms to accomplish great things, while raising the bar for what we consider great things.

I don't think that's true in any practical sense. For example, even with CAD, the cost of designing an airplane continues to skyrocket (even in inflation-adjusted dollars).


> The state creates an environment to allow businesses to flourish, but it is businesses that create prosperity. Specifically, mega-corps.

My claim was that the state was the original force for the existence of markets, (namely for soldiers), way before megacorps were even a thing. So the state clearly has a significant role to play in them.

> Small and medium sized businesses don’t have the economies of scale to do really cool things. They may begin as startups, but to have impact they need to scale to mega-corps. You can’t build an iPhone ad a small or medium sized business.

I specifically stated that for certain businesses where vertical integration is needed, mega-corps make sense, because they also serve a different purpose apart from trying to monopolize the market. But there's no reason for say Wall-Mart, Google etc. not to be broken up.

Moreover, most research starts as publicly funded, but the reward from it is then entirely gobbled up by the corp that bought the rights to the IP. And even megacorps still receive grant money from governments, not to speak about many of them would not survive in an actual capitalist market, without the government grants, which allow them to run into massive ober-budgets and deadline-slips, unlike any private customer would be willing to accept, (see i.e. the F-35).

I however disagree that it is not possible to build a smartphone as a small and medium business. As companies like Purism are proving, it is approachable. Even using entirely free-software tools nowdays. Now, you won't be able to design every single component yourself, but megacorps like Apple don't do that either. And if more grant money was awarded to these smaller businesses, better cooperation facilitated between them and universities etc. I believe they could innovate rather well. In fact most of today's innovation is a result of a small team, even if within a larger whole. The microprocessor team was a tiny part of Intel for example at the time of the 4004. So was the UNIX team etc.

> The Nordic model is heavily dependent on mega-corps. It’s more accurate to characterize those countries as practicing welfare capitalism, rather than democratic socialism.

I refereed to it as "social democracy", which is different from democratic socialism. Social democracy is absolutely fine with regulated capitalism.

The rest of the way you go on to specify how the U.S. system is different, yeah, I know it's different. Am saying something's not working in it if you have 45,000 people die annually due to lack of medical insurance and nearly half of Americans earn less than $30,000 annually.

Yeah, you pay less taxes, but then you pay premiums, co-pays, deductibles etc. Is that really less money paid in the end? There's so many GoFundMe campaigns, you essentially outsourced the welfare state.

I know that the Nordic model seems to be working much better. As for Norway, doesn't the U.S. have massive amounts of oil and other natural resources as well?

The point is, nobody's saying apply the Swedish model, or the Norway model 100% to the U.S. No, what I think makes sense is to take inspiration from them and modify the system accordingly so that it works for the U.S. Take some parts, leave/modify others etc. Unless you think that people dying due to lack of medical insurance is inevitable, because that's what the current system gives you.

What I think we should aim for is a model that works for both individuals and businesses to an acceptable degree. Right now, you have a model that works exceptionally well for business and extremely poorly for a giant portion of the citizenry. The imbalance is off there. Just look at the permanent tax decreases in the newest tax bill.

I am not anti-business by a long stretch, am just for a better balance between the two.


You can’t receive campaign contributions from the corporation the lobbyist works for—it’s illegal for corporations to contribute to a campaign.

You’re giving a citizen who knows about a complex industry access that regular citizens also routinely get.

This idea of a “revolving door” is so vague that it’s impossible to critique. How many politicians leave office to go work for industries that lobbied them? The fact is that it’s not many.


> You can’t receive campaign contributions from the corporation the lobbyist works for—it’s illegal for corporations to contribute to a campaign.

Oh come on, but PACs can. You're insulting anyone's intelligence you tell what you wrote above to.

> You’re giving a citizen who knows about a complex industry access that regular citizens also routinely get.

From what I've seen no. Can a regular person call a senator anytime and for him personally to take the phone? Don't think so. Also, the idea that lobbyists 'know' about a complex industry. No, they simply tell you what they want you to 'know' about the industry in order to win your favor/sympathy. It has little to do with how much they know. There are politicians who turned lobbyists within a year or so of being out of government. Do you really think they're senior folks in the industries they represent?

> How many politicians leave office to go work for industries that lobbied them?

Quite a few and in the case of people like Dick Cheney, it can be deadly for hundreds of thousands of people.

Random Google search[1].

1 - https://www.opensecrets.org/revolving/top.php?display=Z

P.S. I mean this as kindly as possible, but are you, or do you aspire to be a lobbyist by any chance? You sound like one.


> Oh come on, but PACs can. You're insulting anyone's intelligence you tell what you wrote above to.

But corporations cannot contribute to PACs. And PACs can only contribute $5,000 per candidate and $15,000 per party.

> Can a regular person call a senator anytime and for him personally to take the phone? Don't think so. Also, the idea that lobbyists 'know' about a complex industry. No, they simply tell you what they want you to 'know' about the industry in order to win your favor/sympathy. It has little to do with how much they know. There are politicians who turned lobbyists within a year or so of being out of government. Do you really think they're senior folks in the industries they represent?

Do you have any actual basis for the assertions in this paragraph? Or is it based on how you think lobbying works? Because this is a straw man.

> P.S. I mean this as kindly as possible, but are you, or do you aspire to be a lobbyist by any chance? You sound like one.

My wife was a lobbyist, and I have some insight into how lobbying actually works (as opposed to fictional assumptions). The fact that people keep repeating FUD like lobbying involves making campaign contributions is evidence that people are attacking a straw man, not the actual business of lobbying.


I'm not sure what you are asking. It can happen in many different forms.

For instance, the lobbyist asks for measures profiting their business that go against your campaign promises, but you can't refuse, because otherwise they won't pay for your reelection campaign.


Supporting your election campaign isn't bribery.

And it's pretty implausible. Individual campaign contributions are capped at a few thousand dollars.


>Supporting your election campaign isn't bribery.

How is that not bribery? It is directly: do this for me and I will give money to you (or something you care about)


Consider this spectrum of options:-

1. A politician who ran as anti-Foo, the Foo industry giving them a brown envelope full of cash, and they immediately change to be pro-Foo.

2. Two politicians competing at election time, one pro-Foo and one anti-Foo, and the Foo industry giving money to the pro-Foo candidate. Neither candidate publicly changes their position.

3. A new politician without an established policy on Foo, and who sees that pro-Foo candidates getting Foo industry donations, and decides to be pro-Foo for that reason, before they've even met an industry lobbyist or been promised anything.

4. A new politician who observes that pro-Foo candidates win more often, and infers that voters support Foo.

5. A politician who has heard the Foo industry employs a bunch of people in a crucial swing state, and who adopts pro-Foo policies that harm the larger country to seduce those crucial voters.

6. A politician who runs pro-Foo because he believes Foo is good for the country, and receives no campaign funding from the industry whatsoever. Then after leaving politics they're offered a 'job' as an 'adviser' to a big Foo company, getting paid mid six figures for one day a month of work.

Are these all bribery? If so, what would a non-corrupt pro-Foo politician look like?


All supporters' contributions are conditional that way.


No they're not. Honest contributors think a candidate will be conscientious in making decisions for the common good, not "will he do this one thing that benefits me".

In all likelihood whoever you voted for did something that wasn't to your benefit (they vote on many things), but you voted for him anyway. Ditto with money.


You’ve described all political fundraising. People only donate to Bernie because of his views. If he decided to change views to suddenly support free market solutions, his donator base would dry up.

“Support socialism and I’ll donate” is the same thing as “support solar industry and I’ll donate”.


Super PACs are unlimited.


It depends. Who are you on this list?

https://www.opensecrets.org/members-of-congress/members-list

For example, the top recipient of donations, Beto O'Rourke, received $224,463 from Alphabet Inc (AKA Google) in 2018.


The reporting of sources is potentially misleading: none of the identified organizations gave any money. The amount attributed to them aggregates donations by the organizations PACs (which presumably align with the organization's interests) and their “individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families”, including subordinate and affiliate organizations. Now, I don't know about you, but I find that the interests of labor and capital in the same firm are often not aligned, but this list list both as donations by the firm.


That list includes donations from people who work at Google.


This increased lobbying by tech companies was the result of everyone taking the lesson of United States v Microsoft (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Cor...) to heart and trying to make sure they did not end up in the government's crosshairs.


Can anyone explain how these numbers are calculated?

Are these perhaps just expenses related to lobbying (eg: hiring an external agency, or expenses for a particular lobbying action)? Are salaries of internal staff included?

$20m sounds ridiculously low. Giving the magnitude of these efforts, I'd expect the costs for the legal work alone to be far greater than that number.


https://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.php?id=D00006782... : it seems to be by summing up costs to known lobbying agencies.


Interesting, so lobbying efforts from within the company appear to be unaccounted for. I'd also venture that ancillary costs (especially legal services) are unaccounted for.

That really diminishes the meaning of the quoted $20m. For all we know, Google and Facebook could be spending ten times as much on staff lobbyists and lawyers.


Lobbying is actually shockingly cheap, that's why it's so effective for those willing to play the game. Look up the stakes (both sides) for net neutrality. Some people got bought for 4-figure sums


Well, not all of lobbying effort can be shockingly cheap. Referring to a quote attributed to Eric Schmidt from a sibling comment:

> "The average American doesn't realize how much of the laws are written by lobbyists"

You need lawyers for that, and that's certainly not going to be cheap. I don't think it's even remotely possible to do that with the $20m quoted in the article.

If a company employs 3 lawyers full-time to work on some lobbying effort/issue XYZ, are their costs reflected in those $20m? What if they hire external lawyers?

And that's just the legal side. I can think of all kinds of ancillary costs to lobbying, that it total wouldn't fit an annual budget of $20m. Not even close.


Are we upset that big tech is lobbying, or are we upset about lobbying in general?

I can’t think of any big US corporation that doesn’t spend money lobbying.


Lobbying itself is not culprit as it has been present since the beginning of society. Only thing that make it heinous now is the change in mindset of people(more greedy).

Its the responsibility of people to support virtuous corporations(choosing product they use) just like they vote their politicians to power.


If by lobbying you mean bribery, then yes, it has been around forever.

I think the way it is done today, legitimized, in the open, and at scale, is a relatively recent phenomenon.


Can anyone explain how lobbying works in the U.S? Where does the money end up?


Hi I represent the *PAC, do you have a few hours to chat about $TOPIC over a nice dinner? We are a PAC prepared to fund politicians in favor of friendly campaigns $X


Candidates' and parties' election fund.


The article does a poor job at putting the numbers in perspective. How much is it compared to other industries like Pharmaceutical or the aggro industry?


Now facebook is working on election integrity. I love it how they are always able to find a cool name for everything.


Non native speaker here. What is the difference between government lobbying and corruption?


Lobbying is talking to congressmen, which isn't corrupt at all.


What is the $21.2 million figure for?


That money is not given to the congresmen.


Not directly. It is given to all their friends. Their friends have helped them get elected and will again in future. Direct corruption is only used when you want to blackmail someone.


Paying contractors to lobby for them.


Lobbying is organised persuasion of officials. Corruption is - at its simplest - paying officials. But organised persuasion can be expensive when you hire the best lobbyists (they are basically sales guys) and they will live in Trump Tower etc...


Lol, something tells me these guys won't be anywhere near Trump Tower.

https://www.opensecrets.org/orgs/recips.php?cycle=2018&id=D0...


It's not exactly like they have much of a choice.

Here's a piece on how Microsoft initially tried not to get sucked in the quagmire of DC lobbying:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QivPQdRc49s&t=155s

TL;DR: DC to MSFT : if you think we're going to let you do your thing without collecting a piece of the action, you're deluded.


duh. you’d have to be incompetent not to with the way our political system works.


Anyone who doesn't loot defenseless stores is a fool!


That has me thinking about extending the metaphor horrifically. Part of the answer for "why not?" has been "the owner has a gun". It obviously violence would be non-ideal on several levels but a really any sufficient counter force could work and probably would work better albeit with collective action problems. The reason "lobbying" works for cheap is because it helps get them elected. If it was as bad as having an extramarital affair or otherwise a kiss of death the "lobbying" would get more expensive. Similarly if lobbyists got boycotted to hell and back they would hesitate more.


Which companies with a large footprint don’t spend big on lobbying efforts? I’m sorry but why is this news? Is it particularly nefarious or even noteworthy at all?

No offense to op, but this is clickbait garbage.


It is not clickbait. Even without further information about specific policies being pursued, the article has hard numbers about the amount spend for lobbying. I don't think that it is restricted to these quite low amounts, but the information is definitely interesting.


Well for years the tech industry was known for not lobbying but innovating. For a while the byphrase was "winners innovate, losers litigate". Given the decline combined with lobbying that is not a reassuring sign for the industry.




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