A Call for Renaming “Special Interests”

Though it may be quite hard, since interest groups are as old as the republic, we should demand a change in the common misapplication of the term “Special Interests.”  It’s a term that is overstated and underaddressed.  Practically every politician, including newcomers to the political arena, arouses support for going after and eliminating “Special Interests.”  Since any such pledge is rarely if ever achieved, at least we should eliminate the use of the term in political jargon and substitute in its place a term that better describes the statutory and regulatory phenomenon of conveying legal privilege to certain groups.  I think a more appropriate term might even rally more action against unjust legal privileges.

Why? Special connotes the feeling of “unusual in a good way” or “better or more important than others” or “especially important or loved”.  Or so says Mr. Webster.  The real truth is that “Special Interests”, except among the group members, is anything but loved.  The relationship among group interests is more like a “CLASH” than love – more on the origin of that term and its use later.  There is always an exception to the rule; and that, in the subject question, applies to any group that has successfully hoodwinked the public, via its advertising campaign and other deceptive means, into believing that EVERYONE is a part of the group.  The farm lobby immediately comes to mind.  I am sure that we could name others if we think about it a bit.

At a bare minimum legislative activists and practical anarchists should call those, to whom the term applies, anything but “Special”.  Perhaps then eventually everyone will be persuaded.

What then would be a good substitute for the term “Special” in Special Interests?  What about “Caste”?   Once more relying on Mr. Webster for a definition – Caste: “a division of society based on differences of wealth, inherited rank or privilege, occupation, or race”.

Not perfect, yet “Caste” interests in the United States and more particularly in Missouri are certainly granted privileges, albeit granted by the State but not a privilege that is gained as a result of birth or standing of race.

If we call the groups that receive the benefits from the privilege conveyed by the State castes, shouldn’t we call the legislators Caste Creators?

In his 1945 essay, A Clash of Group Interests, which remains valid and timely today, Ludwig von Mises, who first called such interests “Castes”, argues that there is a clash of group interests and it is the state that has created them.

Mises correctly describes the lobbying process that produces this clash:  “Each privileged caste aims at the attainment of new privileges and the preservation of old ones.  Each underprivileged caste aims at the abolition of its disqualifications.”

Unfortunately, due to the theory of “concentrated benefits and dispersed costs”, the awarding of privileges is successful and continues to expand, rather than contract.

In this same essay, Mises also argues that the only real resolution is to do away with any form of Statism.

While we are working on that, let’s call Special Interests “Castes” and the legislators that support these interests “Caste Creators”.  That’s exactly what they are.   Bruce-thumbnail

Bruce Hillis 9/12/16