What do I think: Confused from Detroit

Dear Eugene,

My dad works at the Ford factory down the road. He’s never missed a day of work in his life, and he’s always worked extra hard, but he says this financial crisis is the worst he’s ever seen.

He says we’re headed for another depression, and when he talks about the men who run the government he uses angry words that I’ve only heard him say when he’s drunk. He says the problem is that government is filled with lobbyists and there’s nobody watching them. What do you think?

— confused in Detroit

Well, Confused, your dad’s right to use those angry words. Unfortunately, he’s seemed to confuse the symptom with the culprit.

The problem with the current system isn’t a lack of oversight; its that there’s just so darned much that no one can get anything done. When people realized the mess – and trust you me, they realized fast – they were powerless to stop it because of the mountains of red tape.

Now, lobbyists tend to get a bad rap. And sure, some of them deserve it. But it’s a very simplistic view to say that all lobbyists are crooks. That’d be like saying that all baseball players use steroids, or all cab drivers smell bad.

Lobbyists serve a crucial role in providing the lubricant of government. Some have even called them the fourth estate, and with good reason. Let me explain by metaphor.

Let’s say that all your life you’ve been good at chess. You used to be known for miles around. Your nickname was ‘The Bishop’.

One day you move to Washington D.C. because you want a shot at glory. And you get your shot. But before you play, they tell you you can only play with one hand tied behind your back. With loud music playing. And you have to be blind folded.

Doesn’t sound very fair, does it?

Well this is basically what has happened to our economy. The lobbyists – the ones you thought were the bad guys – were unable to use their superior powers of government to alleviate this mess, and we all suffered for it.

And all because a few cantankerous souls thought that would be unfair.

My prescription is to cut the red tape. Cut government and let industry do its job. Cut restrictions on what lobbyists can and can’t do. Let the invisible hand do its work. It’s the best guide to getting us out of our current crisis.

That’s what I think. And you can take that to the bank.