I read this in Jonah Goldberg’s emailed newsletter, the “Goldberg File”, last week. I thought it was really good.
The other day Mary Katharine Hamm tweeted a link to one of those utterly predictable stories about how corporations with more lobbyists pay lower taxes or some such. She also remarked “complexity is a subsidy” — and that really stuck with me. In many respects those four words distill vast swaths of scholarship from everyone from Friedrich Hayek to Charles Murray.
Again, it’s not a new idea, but I think it’s an extremely useful and pithy description of a very complex argument. The more that financial success depends on high IQ; the more demand there is for lawyers, lobbyists, and accountants; the more onerous regulations become for men-with-strong-backs to find work or for entrepreneurs to start businesses — then the more we move towards a society where the government rewards people based on their ability to navigate paperwork or fulfill quotas on a political to-do list. Complexity benefits statists because increasing complexity allows statists to claim we need more government to help people navigate through these complex times. In the process of helping, they make the government more complicated, creating new services for “fixers” of all stripes to solve problems the statists created in the first place.
The more you look around at spots where society and government intersect, the more you can see how pervasive and pernicious this dynamic is. The more rules you have, the more power you bequeath to the people well-suited to make or manipulate the rules.