Writes Robert Higgs on his Facebook page:
Even though, over the years, I have written many op-ed articles, I’ve never liked doing so. After I left academia and became the senior fellow in political economy for the Independent Institute in 1994, writing them became more or less a part of my job. I have occasionallywritten one with my heart in it, but for the most part – and increasingly as the years have passed — I have found this species of writing unappealing.
Op-eds tend to be wonkish pieces. One takes note of a familiar “public problem,” such as a high rate of unemployment, a slow rate of economic growth, a regulation’s effect on private investment, or something of the sort. One recites a few pieces of evidence to illustrate the character and magnitude of the problem. One then argues that a particular government policy action will have a certain effect on the problem: for example, raising the legal minimum wage by X% will reduce the employment of black males aged 18 to 25 by Y%; or reducing the capital gains tax rate by R% will increase the rate of private, long-term investment by S%. Often one simply argues that if C is increased, D will decrease, without making an attempt to estimate the magnitude of the relation. In any event, one is appealing directly or indirectly (through the public and the pressure that it might put on the government) to the rulers. And in doing so, one is necessarily, if usually only implicitly, relying on the basic assumption that policy makers want to make policy in a way that will better serve the general public interest, that they want, so to speak, to do the right thing. By thetime I began to write op-eds regularly, however, I knew that thisassumption is false.Giving advice to the prince as to how he might alter existing policiesin order to better serve the general public interest flies in the faceof everything the ruler learned from Machiavelli or, to equal effect,from his common sense and experience as a successful politician. The ruler and his bureaucratic flunkies have no interest whatsoever in serving the general public interest, so they have no interest in anything I or anyone else might tell them about how to do so.
Likewise the rich campaign financiers and special-interest groups that prevail on the rulers with some effect are interested only in their own gains. One and all – rulers, flunkies, and key supporters alike — know how to do what they are trying to do; their current policy proposals demonstrate whose ox they seek to gore and whose bank account they seek to fatten. The ebb and flow of visible politics and the mainstream news media’s reports of political events represent only the surface of the rulers’ intentions, the spin that each political party aims to put on his grasping for power and pelf. In this ruthless reality, the rulers neither need nor seek my advice. My op-eds — and yours, too, for that matter — could not be any more irrelevant to them. In short, the worst thing about writing op-ed articles is knowing fromthe start how futile the effort really is.
(Thanks to Debbie Ayers)12:38 pm on January 14, 2014 Email Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.