[FOUNTAIN]Laws favor the few over the majorityWhat is the purpose and intention of the National Assembly’s legislative function? Are the assemblymen working for the public interest, inspired by the devotion to the citizens? Surely, the assemblymen would like to say yes.
How does the National Assembly’s legislation look from an economic perspective? American economist David Friedman cynically analyzes the economic principles of the “market of legislation” in his book, “Hidden Order.”
The following example is a simplified version of his rather complicated theory. Let’s assume that there is a law that causes one million people to lose 100 won each (10 cents) but gives 500,000 won each to 100 people. The total social cost of the law is 100 million won while the total earning is 50 million won. It is logical that the law should be abolished, but Mr. Friedman claims that reality works the other way.
When the majority with fewer concerns and the few with a direct interest collide politically, the latter are bound to win, he said. Although the latter are smaller in number, they have the will and ability to pay a higher political price to protect their interests. In contrast, the former are higher in number, but lack unity and bonds. Each individual would not advocate paying higher prices to prevent the loss of 100 won.
As a result, the law tends to favor a few with direct interests. The interest of the masses are sacrificed. What politics needs is plausible policies that can appease the masses. Mr. Friedman cited the policies safeguarding the farmers or trade protectionism. Legislation advocating food security or protection of domestic industries are created openly despite hurting consumers.
Currently, the ruling and opposition politicians are confronting each other over the revision of the Fair Trade Law and the Private School Law and abolition of the National Security Law. The conflicts of interest have converged at the National Assembly. Just as Mr. Friedman pointed out, the few with direct interests are pressuring the politicians with the rewards they are willing to pay. Perhaps, the public interest and the concerns for the nation might be mere lip service.
Over a century ago, Otto von Bismarck said, “Laws are like sausages; it is better not to see them being made.”
by Nahm Yoon-ho
The writer is head of the family affairs team at the JoongAng Ilbo.