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Corruption plain

March 25, 2020

The corruption to Congressmen holding stakes in individual companies is not that they, more informed than the average bear, sell their stock just before an epidemic causes a bear market. Rather, it is that their interest in specific companies will bias their political decisions. Even if a congressman who holds large amounts of Lockheed does not write law specifically benefiting Lockheed, they will because of that become biased toward defense, and specifically toward the more high tech side of that. They may not even be aware of their bias, developing such entirely unconsciously as a consequence of reading news about Lockheed. Simply holding the stock influences their attention which over time shifts their views. Now, yes, everyone has a history and everyone is biased. But there is no reason to allow ongoing conflicts of interest in those who run government.

It is hard to imagine more plain conflict of interest, one that makes the US now look like a banana Republic, than its president making decisions about international trade and epidemic measures, while two of his sons run his real estate and hospitality business.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is introducing legislation that would ban congressmen from holding stock in individual companies. That would be a step in the right direction. It is unclear to me whether the prohibition proposed covers just publicly traded companies, or also privately held ones. It needs to include the latter. More, it should apply not just to congressmen, but to all high level federal officials, including to all federal judges, and especially to the president and his appointees. Alas, it has no chance of being passed while Republicans hold the senate and while Trump is president.

Richard Epstein last week projected that coronavirus infections worldwide would peek at a million. I think he is off by at least an order of magnitude. Who knows how much their peculiar financial interests plays a role when conservative politicians take that projection as a touchpoint?

Conservatives close to Trump and numerous administration officials have been circulating an article by Richard A. Epstein of the Hoover Institution, titled “Coronavirus Perspective,” that plays down the extent of the spread and the threat. The article, published last week, had predicted that deaths would peak at 500, the milestone surpassed Monday.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Laura A permalink
    March 25, 2020 10:04 am

    omg reading the comments in Epstein’s piece made me sick.

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