So here’s my foray into blogging. Why not just start with dissecting a bad article? The New Republic has an article out attacking Mitt Romney and others for eschewing crony capitalism: Why ‘Crony Capitalism’ is as American as Apple Pie. Diving right into the absurdity, here we go.
Conservatives are supposed to cherish tradition, to draw on customs and policies which worked well in the past to guide what office-holders ought to do in the future.
That’s not really a good definition of conservatism. At least it’s some sort of definition…
So it is ironic, if not hypocritical, that they constantly peddle a notion about the separation of business and government that has no basis in American history.
…but it has nothing to do with this. First, a minor point: there’s nothing “ironic” here. Even accepting the extraordinarily odd position that crony capitalism is inherently conservative, not subscribing to ideological dogma makes one less of an ideologue and not a symbol of irony. It would be like saying that Kazin not giving all his money away as a good socialist is “ironic” or Kazin not offing himself to stave off climate change is “ironic”. It’s not irony to not follow the tenets of ideology just as it’s not irony for someone religious to sin. That might be tragic or show a lack of conviction, but it’s not ironic. It’s also not hypocritical. So here Kazin is simply stretching for attacking adjectives. Kazin could almost get away with using ‘hypocritical’ if he said even a throw-away line about Romney benefiting from crony capitalism, but he doesn’t, so it’s nonsense.
Still, the worse part of all this is that crony capitalism isn’t a conservative position from the get-go. Just because something has been around for a long time doesn’t mean conservatives are required to embrace it. Crony capitalism is often just a form of legalized theft, and it’s not as if conservatives have to embrace crime just because it’s persistent.
Conservatives now object to “crony capitalism,” but for much of U.S. history, businessmen have been hungry for it. Since the early nineteenth century, the government has helped fuel economic growth and corporate profit-making, and savvy businessmen and, recently, businesswomen have lobbied hard to keep those benefits coming.
The assertion about fueling economic growth is specious inasmuch as growth occurred while crony capitalism also existed. Kazin’s main point here though is that crony capitalism is good because businessmen push for it. So? They’re the primary beneficiaries of dealing with the government at the expense of everyone outside the deal. When businessmen are getting wealthy off the backs of the taxpayers, the opinions of the taxpayers are more relevant.
Kazin then goes on to conflate government spending in general with crony capitalism by asserting that all federal infrastructure and even the postal system are somehow the result of crony capitalism.
By the turn of the century, a sizeable number of Americans were calling for an end to the torrid affair between business and government.
Wait, so this conservative opposition has been around for over 100 years? So what was that first bit about cherishing tradition? Oh, well.
Before World War I, progressives pushed through measures to curb the trusts, regulate the money supply, and protect consumers from unsafe meat and drugs. Yet the largest meatpacking corporations also welcomed the FDA, knowing it would signal that their products were safe to eat while raising the costs of production just enough to drive smaller firms out of business.
This is an important admission: that crony capitalism drives smaller firms out of business. Is that a model that “works well”? Is killing and preventing small firms part of the success or just a necessary casualty?
Kazin again says that recipients of federal money have generally been happy to get money and then makes this ridiculous statement:
The real political question has never been, should government be large or small but whose interests should it serve?
Except, of course, that that has been a central theme of debate since the founding of the country. So “special interests” are king. Special interests are good. We should all embrace one side or the other where both sides are big government. Incidentally, Kazin doesn’t feel the need to chastise Dems that run against special interests even though they’d supposedly be wrong in doing so.
Even if he knew this history, Mitt Romney would probably still spend the next eight months promising to free the economy from the shackles of “big government.” But if that rhetoric ever became reality, there would be nothing conservative about it.
Um, okay, so what would it be? Certainly not liberal–Kazin says the liberal Dems are for big government that serves their own interests (please run on this Dems). But what would a smaller government without special interests be called other than conservative?
Crony capitalism is not something that has worked well in the past–we’ve somehow managed to survive it, but it’s a problem that is getting worse, and rose-tinted glasses of the past gloss over burdens on taxpayers and abject unfairness to small businesses and start-ups. And that’s not even delving into laughably horrible failures like Solyndra. Perpetuating corruption through crony capitalism is also most certainly not something on which to base future decisions, but it looks like the liberals are being clear that that’s where they want to take this country in the short run.