Author’s Note: This column is a continuation of my previous column “Bribery and Extortion,” which serves as an extended review of Peter Schweizer’s excellent new book Extortion: How Politicians Extract Your Money, Buy Votes, and Line Their Own Pockets.
In the wake of the tragic December, 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, Vice President Biden criticized more than just the gun industry. He also criticized the video game industry. He argued specifically that video games contribute to a national culture of violence. He stated immediately that he didn’t know what the government was going to do about it. Nonetheless, he said, “We’re going to do something.” In truth, by saying the government was going to do “something” it already had done something. That “something “was to issue a threat of extortion to the video gaming industry.
Immediately after Biden’s implicit threat that the government would soon crack down on video games, President Obama asked the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes of violent behavior. He specifically asked them to focus on any role movies, television, and video games might play. Predictably, the industry, which was already spending $5 million on lobbying, has started to expand its lobbying operations in Washington. Also predictably, the lobby has started hiring the family members and friends of politicians in order to help with their efforts.
The permanent political class may sometimes extort money by threatening to do things they never really intend to do. But sometimes they extort money by overdoing things, which arguably needed to be done. A good example of such overkill is the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Whatever good intentions some market regulators may have had were overshadowed by the centerpiece of the act, which is known as the “Volcker Rule.” The rule is simply so unintelligible that it had to have been designed to be indecipherable. (I call this “UD,” which is short for “unintelligible design”). It began as a three-page memo from former Fed chairman Paul Volcker but later grew into a 298-page description followed by a whopping 383 questions and 1420 sub-questions.