A recent working paper recently released by the IEP’s Brent Skorup and the Mercatus Center’s Adam Thierer has generated considerable media attention.The Washington Post’s “Wonkblog,” the Daily Caller, the San Francisco Chronicle and the weekly newsmagazine Businessweek have all cited Skorup and Thierer’s paper, “A History of Cronyism and Capture in the Information Economy Sector,” which details the increased cronyism in the IT market caused by government regulation. Skorup and Thierer received additional press on their research when US News and World Report published an Op-ed written by the pair on the same subject.
Skorup and Thierer’s research and scholarship on cronyism has proved to be important due to the increased popular concern regarding the growth in lobbying expenditures among major tech companies in recent years. Observers have decried the increased focus on political influence as opposed to research and development in the industry. Skorup and Thierer have argued that this trend towards cronyism reflects recent efforts by government agencies to increase regulation of emerging technology markets. Skorup and Thierer offer an important contribution by challenging the popular narrative that government action is needed to combat cronyism. The impact of this argument can be seen in the Washington Post’s reference to their work.
Thierer and Skorup argue that skyrocketing lobbying spending proves the need for deregulation. “When policymakers dispense favors, they usually expect something in return,” they argue. Only by eliminating the regulatory schemes that allow policymakers to dispense favors can government eliminate the incentive to get into the lobbying game, they believe. But that may be easier said than done. Take spectrum policy, for example. Thierer and Skorup decry the “politicization of spectrum policy,” and advocate the use of auctions to take the politics out of spectrum allocation decisions. In their view, giving spectrum to the highest bidder eliminates the potential for favoritism.