The ascendency of government capture in modern America
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” US President Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 17, 1961
While the present condition of government capture in America may well be an extreme case, its rise hasn’t occurred overnight, and while the timeline included here begins formally with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980, Eisenhower’s famous warning was delivered nearly 20 years previously. The modern methods may be different, but the drive to win power and influence over the affairs of government is as old as government itself.
Capture is also persistently bipartisan. Where Democrats seek control from within, through the construction of ever larger government agencies and official regulators, Republicans make their gains via Federal-level deregulation and the assertion of private control. Many of the gains of the past 30 years, roughly 1980 to present, have followed this latter pattern so our focus here is more often than not on de-regulation, but the net effect has tended in the same general direction regardless of the party in power.
We begin our timeline with a quick review of a few key moments of pre-history…