Ph.D. Octopus

Politics, media, music, capitalism, scholarship, and ephemera since 2010

Goldman Sachs and Kagan

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By Wiz

Ezra Klein says lobbying is more about building social networks than about directly bribing people:

Finally, I worry much more about the people than the money. Let the banks spend money. But when you’ve got 54 former staffers from the relevant committees and 33 former chiefs of staff and more than 200 former congressmen, you’re talking about something much more effective than spending: You’re talking about social relationships. People return e-mails and take calls and listen closely to the people they know. This is, essentially, what journalism is about: Leveraging social relationships to get people to tell you things they probably shouldn’t be telling you, and that they certainly wouldn’t tell someone they didn’t know and have human feelings for.

This, I think, is the context with which to think about the fact that Goldman Sachs paid Elena Kagan $10,000 for one day’s worth of work back in 2008.

It’s not so much that they are bribing people directly. Kagan likely wouldn’t have taken it.

But rather, Goldman is smart enough to know that forging personal links with a variety of people in positions of power is worth these small beans. Its about creating a world where people in authority and power think of Goldman Sachs and think of their old college buddy, or that nice charming man who oversaw that conference which paid me $10,000, etc…

It encourages elites to personalize the institution, since they literally know individuals who run it (who are probably perfectly fine individuals) rather than understand its broad economic and political role.

This, my friends, is one of the more blunt ways that ideology is created. Personal links, informal dialogue, individual relationships, etc…- it all helps to create the culture of our ruling class. Like water dropping on a rock, it eventually bores into people.

It’s not like the poor, or people kicked out of their homes, get a chance to pay future Supreme Court justices $10,000 for the right to schmooze with them. At no point, of course, do people receiving that money say to themselves: “I’m now going to think about social problems like Goldman Sachs wants me to.” But the net result of all that social immersion has to affect people.


Written by Peter Wirzbicki

May 11, 2010 at 22:38

Posted in ideology, Law

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