This is a slow-motion nightmare for principled people on the right and the left. Conservatives fear that the inertia of bigger government will pull it ever deeper into the details of everyday life. Liberals worry that, as money becomes the measure of all things, the influence of the wealthiest will expand without limit. Together, Americans need to recognize that the dovetailing of these trends is deliberate, and that, intentionally or not, it breeds systematic corruption.
We haven’t been served well enough by either party’s would-be remedies. The right insists that shrinking government shrinks the lobbyists’ pie. The left wants to curb the influence of corporate cash through taxes and campaign finance reform. Even more inventive reforms proposed at the political margins are half-measures. One group of liberals hopes to undo corruption by legally reconceptualizing them “as team-like enterprises making use of a multitude of inputs from various kinds of investors,” in the words of Boston College scholar Kent Greenfield, writing in 2012 in Democracy.
“The success of corporations depends on the contributions of many different stakeholders,” he argues, “and the governance of corporations should recognize those contributions.” Greenfield’s ilk hopes the power of government can fight fire with fire, tipping the scales against privileged insiders by mandating which kind of inclusive diversity corporations use. Whether or not this effort would survive the inevitable constitutional challenge, it fails to strike at the heart of the problem—pluralism’s ideological serviceability as a fig leaf for patronage.