Time to Drive a Stake Through “Stakeholding”

The Dept. of Energy has just released a “Directory of Potential Stakeholders for DoE Actions Under NEPA” (link to a PDF file).  NEPA is the National Environmental Policy Act; think environmental impact assessments, and the endless lawsuits challenging their adequacy.  Skip over the list of the myriad federal and state agencies that want in on the process; note the list starting on page 24 (or just check the list in the contents starting on page iv) of all the NGOs who are potential “stakeholders.”  There are a handful of national pro-business groups, but they are badly outnumbered by local environmental and other left-wing groups.

An NGO “stakeholder” is a euphemism for a self-appointed special interest group that wants to twist the administrative and legal process to get what they can’t get directly through legislation or elections.  I think the only good “stakeholder” is the vampire hunter about the plunge one in the bloodsucking government we’ve got today.

I wrote about this problem at some length in Reason magazine way back in 1994, in the context of the unfolding Hillarycare plan.  (Those were the days, weren’t they?)  A couple of the worthier graphs from that piece:

Stakeholder representation refers to the growing practice of explicitly allocating positions on government boards, commissions, and advisory bodies to special-interest groups. A hybrid of quotas, Scandinavian-style corporatism, and old-fashioned interest-group liberalism, stakeholder representation holds that interests with a “stake” in a government policy or regulatory activity should be officially represented on the government agency that oversees that area of policy. While the theory posits a cut-and-dried reality, the practice is a sloppy, highly politicized affair. Self-appointed pressure groups such as environmentalists, consumer advocates, and civil-rights organizations share equal standing with parties who have traditionally represented constituent interests, such as business, organized labor, or property owners, while other interests are excluded altogether. . . .

But, in practice, stakeholder representation entails favoring certain special interests over other interests, therefore biasing the outcome of any “consensus.” As with the menagerie in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, some stakeholders are more equal than others. Not just anyone can be a board member of a Regional Health Alliance. The Clinton health-care plan favors certain kinds of people–employers and “consumer representatives”–while banning others: health-care providers, lawyers and other professionals working for health-care providers, and anyone connected with the pharmaceutical industry. . .

To say that certain groups have a special “stake” in a particular area of policy is to imply that ordinary citizens have no “stake,” or an inferior “stake,” in the actions of government. Under the traditional understanding of representative government, special-interest groups who dissent from government policy are invited to lobby and persuade and have the same right as every other citizen to vote their interest in elections. It is precisely because all special interests share the equal rights of every citizen that they should not be given a privileged position at any official councils of government.

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