Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Fifth Freedom of the First Amendment

Here's a quick quiz, dear reader:  name the five individual freedoms expressly protected by the First Amendment (not counting the Establishment Clause protection as an individual freedom).  Freedom of speech, of course, along with freedom of the press, freedom of religion, and freedom to peacefully assemble. And?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Yes, the First Amendment protects the right to lobby.  And as Charles Krauthammer persuasively argues in a column today, we have become too disparaging toward the act of lobbying.  Not only have we (or at least most of us, including myself) lost sight of its constitutionally protected status, we have overlooked the fact that the root cause of the incredible intensity of current lobbying  (including lobbying that serves only the most narrow of interests) is the present size and role of government in society:

There is a defense of even bad lobbying. It goes like this: You wouldn't need to be seeking advantage if the federal government had not appropriated for itself in the 20th century all kinds of powers, regulations, intrusions and manipulations (often through the tax code) that had never been presumed in the 19th century and certainly were never imagined by the Founders. What appears to be rent-seeking is thus redress of a larger grievance -- insufferable government meddling in what had traditionally been considered an area of free enterprise.

First-rate stuff.

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