How “do-gooders” become the unwitting dupes of establishment special interests

Dr. Milton Friedman on the establishment of the Interstate Commerce Commission of 1887:

“Nobody ever goes up to Congress and says, ‘Look, vote me a big bonanza of $100,000 because I’m a good man and I deserve $100,000 out of the public purse.’ No, he says, ‘You should subsidize X, Y, and Z because the poor people in the slums will be benefited by it.’ So, you have two classes of people: the selfish special interests on the one hand, and the so-called do-gooders on the other. These do-gooders are generally sincere people, but they invariably end up being the unwitting front men for private interests they would never knowingly support.

“An example of that are the 19th Century Ralph Naders who got the Interstate Commerce Commission established — supposedly to protect the consumers. The ‘do-gooder’ reformers, the Ralph Nader types, were sincere. They wee interested in promoting the interests of the consumers, and they were complaining that the railroads were monopolies and that they were charging too-high freight rates, and that we had to get the federal government involved in order to eliminate that exploitation of the consumers. So, the ICC was set up. But who benefited from it? The well-meaning reformers, the do-gooders, went on to their next reform. The big railroads took over the ICC. And they used the ICC to keep out competition and to raise rates rather than lowering them. Then they used it in the 1920s to get the control of the ICC extended to trucking, because that was the most dangerous source of competition for them then.

So, those well-meaning reformers — not that they were bad people — but they wound up being the front men for special interests that they thought they were opposing. And you have that pattern over and over again.”

~Milton Friedman on the Phil Donahue Show out of Chicago.