Where are Special Interests When You Need Them? The Problem of Unwanted Phone Calls

One problem with the political decisions, including those in a democracy, is the importance of special interests. Special or politically concentrated interests have an advantage in the political process and therefore are able to obtain special privileges and advantages that impose inefficient costs on the society. This is, of course, an old story.

But the world seems to be more complicated than this. Sometimes one wonders why special interests do not seem to be pursuing their interests. And as a result, other special interests prevail when it seems they should not.

I thought of this the other day when I picked up another phone call from some kind of telemarketer – either a business or a survey company. In our house, my wife and I both have cell phones and we also have a home land line. For the last 5 to 10 years, I would say that an increasing number of phone calls on the land line come from telemarketers or other organizations (these days it is over 90 percent). It has come to the point where my wife and I simply do not answer the land line – we always let it go to the answering machine. At some point, I imagine that we will get rid of the land line, but it seems like a bit step, especially for people of my generation.

I find this arrangement absurd. There is (or perhaps was) a no call list, but it had exemptions for people conducting surveys or venders with which one has an existing arrangement. But I don’t want those exemptions. I want a complete no call list, but cannot get one. It seems absurd that I cannot control who has the right to ring a bell in my house and disturb my peace.

These exceptions are explained in part by special interests, including politicians who wants polls to be conducted and businesses who want to contact potential customers. I understand that; my question is why other special interests don’t fight these rules. The land line phone companies should oppose these exemptions, because over time it will cause people to cancel their land lines.

Perhaps there are too few people canceling their land lines. Perhaps the cell phone and land line companies are the same people and so they don’t lose much.

In the long run, there may be a technological fix for these matters. Technological advances generally solve problems much better than governments do. And in that future world, my phones might function like my e mails accounts do – where I have one e mail for venders who send me all kinds of advertisements and another for work and friends.