Monday, June 22, 2009

It's called corporatism, Jonah 

Jonah Goldberg has a great editorial this weekend that only misses the name of that he wants to criticize.
The absence of free markets isn�t necessarily Bolshevism, or even socialism. Capitalism�s death can come in many forms, by many different hands.

...Whether that�s more accurate, it certainly seems a more fitting declaration as the coup de gr�ce of capitalism�s murder is at the hands of its most successful child: big business.

Everywhere we look we see the great and once-great beneficiaries of free markets running to the state for protection from the cruel bullying of competition. On health care, insurance companies and others repeat the mantra that they want to be �at the table rather than on the menu,� all the better to be positioned as a tax collector of the welfare state. General Motors and Chrysler have gone from being pimped-out prostitutes of the state to outright chattel more akin to the leather-bound gimp in Pulp Fiction, eager to do the bidding of the president and the UAW.
&c. I have thought for awhile about where the line is between rent-seeking and corporatism. As the rent-seeking piece written by David Henderson states, rent-seeking is really privilege seeking. The privilege to operate in the economy under protection of government.

But corporatism is a bit more than that. It desires to have a grand bargain rather than regulatory capture by one side or the other. I don't necessarily see the Obama Administration as hostile to big business so much as trying to co-opt it. (Thus this morning's announcement of a "deal" with pharmaceutical firms to help the Administration's health care plan.) �

So think about this 2005 interview with Andrei Illarianov, former Putin economic advisor. �What do you call the type of economic system created by Putin? �How do you distinguish the Russian government's actions with its gas industry from the Obama administration's actions with the car industry? �In my discussion on this topic last week, I thought it important to make these distinctions clear. �What Jonah Goldberg is trying to say in this article is that the government is pursuing corporatism. �But is it different from the usual rent-seeking behavior that happens in all market economies where the commitment to economic freedom is imperfect? �I don't know.