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Colombia’s FARC Deal Will Turn Terrorists Into Legislators: What Could Go Wrong?

By: Vanesa Vallejo - May 19, 2017, 10:54 am
Colombia's FARC Deal Will Turn Terrorists Into Legislators
The same murderers who have committed the most heinous crimes for over 50 years will end up exchanging “Jail for Senate.” (Youtube)

EspañolIn surveys on happiness, Colombia almost always appears near the top. Apparently, we suffer very little. One of the keys to happiness is to not worry, to take matters lightly. But it’s also fundamental that matters of importance receive the attention they deserve. Otherwise, a situation can get out of control.

That’s exactly what is happening with the peace deal made between President Juan Manuel Santos’ administration and The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The same murderers who committed the most heinous crimes of the last 50 years are going to exchange jail time for Senate seats. Even if they don’t get enough votes, FARC members will still have a seat in Congress guaranteed for two terms. Some apprently prefer to see former FARC members serving in government than killing people in the countryside, but that thinking is limited; it shouldn’t be a decision between one or the other.

And the peace deal hasn’t actually improved the country’s situation. Violence statistics are practically identical to those of 2015 and 2016, though the homicide rate has stagnated over the last two years. In key drug trafficking areas, civilians continue to suffer from extortion by the same groups of people.

So will having former FARC guerrillas legislating make a difference in all of that? Of course not. They will keep representing terrorists like themselves.

The FARC finally got what they were after these last 50 years: power. Do we really expect them to negotiate policy on agriculture, or other seemingly minute and nuanced topics that don’t pertain to their specific ideology? They’re going to focus on their own agenda, and bully the executive branch into getting what they want. The Santos administration has agreed to restructure regulation of the countryside only because the guerrillas believe it isn’t distributed appropriately.

More than 74 million acres of fertile land will go to a “land fund” that will be distributed among those who the government deems deserving. Different criteria will be used, such as evaluating whether land is being utilized well or not — meaning expropriation will be applied when the “social and environmental function” of the land is not fulfilled.

Is this land conflict a minor issue? The FARC, who have no representation whatsoever, who have sown terror into the fabric of the country for decades, are now negotiating the country’s agricultural policy with officials behind closed doors.

 

Some people with good intentions believe that it’s okay to distribute land to the needy even if it involves expropriation. But such an idea is immoral and harmful to society as a whole.

We can’t fall into cheap sentimentality without basic economic knowledge. Capitalization and private investment are sources of wealth. The countries with the highest standard of living are not those in which wealth and land are redistributed for one group’s benefit. People enjoy greater welfare in places where there is more economic freedom and greater capitalization.

The fact that the FARC is influencing politics, the economy and the development of the country is no minor issue. And it’s no minor issue that equality before the law will come to an end in Colombia if this continues.

FARC members will not pay for their crimes. We must take into account that the level of violence in a society is related to the degree of impunity it imposes. In places where people know that committing a crime brings consequences, crime rates are lower. In Colombia, with these measures, we are creating incentives for criminals, which in turn increases violence.

It is time for Colombians to start giving this issue the attention it deserves. Santos mocked the country when he decided to ignore the outcome of the referendum. Now he is negotiating the economic and agriculture policy of the country with communist guerrillas and granting them the power to legislate.

We must do what is necessary to undo the Santos-FARC peace agreement.

Vanesa Vallejo Vanesa Vallejo

Vanesa Vallejo is a Colombian economist, columnist, and classical liberal activist. She is a member of Colombia's Libertarian Movement. Follow her: @VanesaVallejo3.

How Big Government Begets Cronyism No Matter Who’s In Charge

By: Daniel J. Mitchell - @danieljmitchell - May 19, 2017, 9:12 am
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By Daniel J. Mitchell One of the points I repeatedly make is that big government breeds corruption for the simple reason that politicians have more power to reward friends and punish enemies. It’s especially nauseating when big companies learn that they can get in bed with big government in order to obtain unearned wealth with bailouts, subsidies, protectionism, and other examples of cronyism. And these odious forms of government intervention reduce our living standards by distorting the allocation of labor and capital. googletag.cmd.push(function() { googletag.display('div-gpt-ad-1459522593195-0'); }); But just as crime is bad for society but good for criminals, it’s also true that cronyism is bad for the economy and good for cronies. It Pays to Play Two professors at the University of the Illinois decided to measure the “value” of cronyism for politically connected companies. "Gaining political access can be of significant value for corporations, particularly since governments play an increasingly prominent role in influencing firms. Governments affect economic activities not only through regulations, but also by playing the role of customers, financiers, and partners of firms in the private sector. …Therefore, gaining and maintaining access to influential policymakers can be an important source of competitive advantage… In this paper, we investigate the characteristics of firms with political access as well as the valuation effects of political access for corporations. Using a novel dataset of White House visitor logs, we identify top corporate executives of S&P 1500 firms that have face-to-face meetings with high-level federal government officials. …We match the names of visitors in the White House visitor logs to the names of corporate executives of S&P1500 firms during the period from January 2009 through December 2015. We are able to identify 2,286 meetings between corporate executives and federal government officials at the White House.” And what did they find? That cronyism is lucrative (I deliberately chose that word rather than “profitable” because money that it legitimately earned is very honorable). Read More: Donald Trump Skips Another White House Tradition: Cinco de Mayo Read More: The White House May Be In Turmoil, But America Is Not Here are some of the findings. "…we find that firms that contributed more to Obama’s presidential election campaigns are more likely to have access to the White House. We also find that firms that spend more on lobbying receive more government contracts… Second, we find that corporate executives’ meetings with White House officials are followed by significant positive cumulative abnormal returns (CARs). For example, the CAR is about 0.865% during a 51-day window surrounding the meetings (i.e., 10 days before to 40 days after the meetings). We also find that the result is driven mainly by meetings with the President and his top aides.” For those interested, here are the companies that had a lot of interaction with the Obama White House. And here are the officials that they met with. For what it’s worth, I would be especially suspicious of the meetings with Valerie Jarrett and the three Chiefs of Staff. Those officials are political operatives rather than policy experts, so companies meeting with them were probably looking for favors. Investing in Relationships Interestingly, it turns out that it wasn’t a good idea for companies to “invest” a lot of time and effort into cultivating relationships with Democrats. "…we exploit the election of Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the U.S. as a shock to political access. We find that firms with access to the Obama administration experience significantly lower stock returns following the release of the election result than otherwise similar firms. The economic magnitude is nontrivial as well: after controlling for various factors that are likely correlated with firms’ political activities, such as campaign contributions, lobbying expenses, and government contracts, the stocks of firms with access to the Obama administration underperform the stocks of otherwise similar firms by about 80 basis points in the three days immediately following the election." Though I guess you can’t blame the companies. Most observers (including me) expected Hillary to win, so the firms were simply playing the odds (albeit from an amoral perspective). By the way, there are two very important caveats to share. First, we can’t universally assume that corporate executives who met with White House officials were seeking special favors. They may simply have been urging the Obama Administration not to raise taxes or impose new regulations (i.e., honorable forms of lobbying). Second, we can’t assume that the bad forms of lobbying have disappeared simply because there’s a Republican in the White House. As we saw during the Bush years, the GOP is more than capable of creating opportunities for unearned wealth by expanding the size and scope government. For what it’s worth, I fear Trump will be tempted to play favorites as well. Which is why the real message for today is that smaller government is the only way to limit the corrupt interaction of big business and big government. This image from the libertarian page on Reddit illustrates why my leftist buddies are naive to think that a bigger government will be a weapon against cronyism. P.S. We should learn from Estonia on how to limit cronyism. P.P.S. To close on a humorous note, those with left-wing children may want to get them “Kronies” for their birthdays or Christmas. Daniel J. Mitchell is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute who specializes in fiscal policy, particularly tax reform, international tax competition, and the economic burden of government spending. He also serves on the editorial board of the Cayman Financial Review.  This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

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