I'm normally skeptical about claims of corporate interference/conspiracies having much effect on the behavior of government, normally because government, industry, and the general population all have similarly-aligned interests: maximize productivity and wellbeing. Some individuals and cabals are focused on maintaining and extending their own power (see: Congress), but generally even this goal is pursued by attempting to improve the lives of the population as a whole (generally, in the net, on average). However, this article about lobbying and environmentalism shows just how dangerous the government can be when We The People allow it to exercise so much power that it can create whole industries for its corporate buddies.

NBC Universal is owned by General Electric, which plays a regular role in this column because of how aggressively the company has hitched its profits to its lobbying successes. GE spends more than any other corporation in America on lobbying the federal government — more than $20 million annually over the past three years — and Green Week and Earth Week probably should be disclosed as lobbying efforts.

In many of GE’s businesses, the profit model appears to be: (1) invest in something for which there isn’t much demand; (2) then lobby to mandate or subsidize it.

Wind turbines are a great example. GE describes itself as “one of the world’s leading wind turbine suppliers.” Absent subsidies, however, there might be no windmill industry, because windmills cannot reliably produce energy, and certainly not as affordably as traditional fuels such as coal. ...

GE’s coal gasification, solar power generation, electric cars and biodiesel businesses are the same: Consumers and investors acting with their own money would not patronize these technologies, but Congress, acting with your money, will. GE’s $20 million annual lobbying budget sees to it. ...

But sometimes it pours it on a bit thicker. Tuesday morning, Tom Brokaw went on NBC to give a talk about the first Earth Day. “It was a massive success,” Brokaw explained, because “the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act quickly followed. President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.”

There’s the rub. Everyone who rolls her eyes at “Earth Week” or lectures from Schwimmer on “going green” was bracing for that. Environmentalism today almost always means government intervention. Government intervention means higher costs and higher taxes. And as this column has documented for more than a year, government intervention usually means profits for a well-connected special interest.

In the long run, market forces will smooth out these minor artificial inefficiencies, but that doesn't make the graft less offensive in the short run. What's more, blithely accepting this corruption opens the door to stifling the liberty that allows market forces to work at all... and in the long run we'll all be dead.

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