Understanding the Power Players

Recently by Robert Wenzel: Wisconsin in Perspective on the Protest-Revolution Scale

The reaction in the comment section to my column, Krugman Explains the Wisconsin Power Game (Then calls for the unions to grab the power), does not surprise me. It is difficult to understand how power players think and use leverage. Their way of thinking is far different from the way you and I think. So let me address in further details why I reached the conclusions I have.

But first, let me state that the charge in the comments that I have some kind of "sourgrapes" dispute with the Koch brothers is simply off base. I don’t know the brothers personally and have never interacted with them, or their organizations, other than by my attending a few of the events they have sponsored at their Cato Institute operation in Washington D.C.. I have listened to lectures at the Hayek Auditorium at the Institute and eaten the pretty decent sandwiches that are provided after the events.

But, when someone tells me he is a big Boston Red Sox fan, yet I see him always wearing Derek Jeter shirts and I further learn he has box seats at Yankee Stadiuim and flys to NYC at every opportunity to watch the Yankees play, a question like, "Where’s your David Ortiz shirt?" or "Have you ever been to Fenway Park?" does not seem out of order.

The Koch brothers openly proclaim to be libertarians, yet, there seems to be little support from them of Ron Paul (although he may be getting too big and popular for them to ignore completely) and, like I said, I have been to the Koch-funded Cato Institute and they have a beautiful portrait of Friedrich von Hayek, but there is no obvious recognition of the work of Ludwig von Mises. Hayek has done some great work but he is no Mises.

And then when I see them move into the political arena with support for non-Paulian Republicans and take up a cause that has to be dear to the heart of establishment Republicans, i.e. breaking up public employee unions, I start looking at what else might be going on. Again, I repeat, there is nothing wrong with breaking up public employee unions, but it just appears to me to be an odd place for a libertarian organization to focus its energy, thought it is a great place to focus if you seek to influence power, rather than eliminate it.

Power players just work differently than you and I. They see situations in terms of leverage and how it allows them to move pieces on their life’s chess board. I am aware of one of the most powerful men in California. You will never see his name in the paper, but everyone who needs to know who he is knows him.

This gentlemen, although not officially having any control over the process, is really in charge of what movie star gets his star on the Hollywood walk of fame, not only which stars, but where on the walk of fame the star is placed and when. All the Hollywood movie stars know this. Now, if you or I had this influence, we might think it is pretty cool. This power broker thinks differently. For him this is leverage he has on movie stars (along with some other leverage he has on movie stars who are already on the Walk of Fame). If you need a movie star, for whatever reason, he can deliver. Do you have a charity event that is not selling well? No problem, this operator will have two or three movie stars at the event and endorsing the event, pronto.

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2011 Economic Policy Journal