I am going to start this post by linking an article by Ralph Nader, the left-wing Green party hero. I, a libertarian, unapologetic capitalist, agree with Mr. Nader on this issue. Nader’s take is that the left and the right should be able to agree that corporatism is a common enemy.
The common response that I always hear from people on the left to my promotion of capitalism is: why is government bailing out big business? Why is government paying off big agriculture with billions in subsidies? Why are corporate titans getting government money? Why is the government in bed with the defense industry?
The left is completely correct on all of these points. My response is that true capitalists want government to leave business alone as much as possible. In the sense that government promotes certain businesses over others (which is what corporatism is), it is violating a central principle of free-market capitalism: companies should live or die based on the marketplace and their ability to create new and better products at a lower cost, not on getting handouts from government (which means taking taxpayer money to make the rich even richer).
Let me make this very clear: true capitalists hate corporate welfare just as much as the left does, and perhaps even more because it makes business look like the enemy. In addition, in a corporatist world, your success depends more on your connections and who you pay off (or lobby), rather than the brilliance of your product. Nothing could be more offensive to a true capitalist.
Before we go on, let me address something that many people are thinking right now, which is: “well, Republicans are just as guilty of promoting corporate welfare as anybody else.” This statement is correct. All of us will soon see the disgusting ritual of most Republicans and most Democrats traveling to Iowa to assure agriculture subsidies continue to enrich a few well-placed farmers. So, you and I are paying taxes so that a small group of rich, well-connected people in Iowa can get richer. It’s an abomination.
The left and the right should unite to force our candidates to have the guts to insist that agriculture subsidies get cut or completely eliminated. Ethanol has been a disaster, something on which even most environmentalists agree (more greenhouse gases get spent creating ethanol than get saved by using it rather than oil-based gasoline).
In addition, we should be able to agree on no more bailouts for businesses that are about to fail. The TARP process lacked a minimal amount of oversight and control. I guarantee in the years ahead we will learn about banking executives who skimmed government money.
Pres. Eisenhower’s warning about the military-industrial complex is coming true before our eyes. Powerful corporate interests have a tremendous amount to gain by pushing their wares to continue our current war strategy. They continue to lobby and provide campaign contributions to those congressmen friendly to the defense industry, and oppose anybody speaking out for change. Let’s agree on slashing the defense budget and working to change foreign policy by getting out of Afghanistan and Iraq immediately. While we’re at it, let’s bring the troops home from Germany, Kosovo and Japan and work with China to negotiate a settlement for North Korea. One of the reasons China supports North Korea is to maintain a buffer between U.S. troops and the mainland — if we agreed to withdraw our bases from Asia, our relations with China would improve. And we’d save a lot of money.
The utopian vision of most Mormon libertarians and communitarians is strikingly similar in its ultimate result: communities of people voluntarily uniting to help each other and build zion. The big difference, it appears to me, is that libertarians like myself want this to take place voluntarily, without force and without government involvement. Libertarians believe that more government will take us farther away from this communitarian ideal. But if we agree on the ultimate goal, why is there so much angst and anger about our prescription for getting there?
Even the most strident communitarian should be able to see the beauty of people using their creative skills to bring forth new products that really change peoples’ lives in positive ways. When I think of capitalism, I think about the internet, which is now a new tool for missionary work, or the Ipad, which many of our smartest entrepeneurs are calling the most transformative technology in decades or perhaps ever. If the people creating these things are stimulated by money for now, I say, who cares? This seems to be the motivation we need in a pre-zion world. I long for the world when people will work for the greater good of mankind, but that time is not today. Today, people need money as a motivation. And by the way, you still need money to pay your bills. Sorry, it’s just the reality of the world we live in.
So, today I call on people on the left and right to unite against corporatism, just as Ralph Nader and Ron Paul are doing in this video here. Let’s concentrate on our similarities, not our differences.