Sunday, July 4, 2010

Capitalism vs. corporatism: a meeting of left and right?

Here's a comment on a theme that needs a lot more attention than its gotten so far -- the distinction between capitalism, in the sense of free trade, free markets, and free enterprise, and what we might as well call "corporatism", in the sense of state support for, and involvement with, selected corporate favorites. Corporatism often hides under capitalism, and, on the left especially, is often mistaken for it. But, as the note makes clear, they are two very different political/economic entities, and corporatism has its proponents on both the left (as in, e.g., state control of the economic commanding heights) and the right (as in, e.g., using subsidies as a means of shifting tax money from one sector to a more favored one).

The meeting of cats and dogs left and right comes up in a reference to another post, by an environmental blogger named David Roberts, criticizing Newt Gingrich's advocacy of energy subsidies, and it has the better substance:
Says Gingrich, "a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country." That is one doozy of a non-sequitur. Surely a conservative ought to know that money government spends on energy subsidies is taken from elsewhere in the economy. The externalized health and ecological costs of fossil fuels are paid by the public, with money taken from elsewhere in the economy. Fossil-fuel subsidies don't reduce costs, they shift costs. The burden is moved from energy companies to the public. The result is what we have today: energy that looks cheap because most of its costs are hidden from view. ...
There is no plausible interpretation under which Gingrich could be characterized as pro-market. He is pro-business, or more precisely, pro-some-businesses, which is very different -- the opposite, even -- of pro-market.

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