Monday, November 15, 2010

Palinism vs. corporatism

Sarah Palin, corporatist scourge? That's the thesis of James Pethokoukis in "Why Wall Street should fear Sarah Palin". "Corporatism", just to be clear, is distinct from "capitalism" -- the former is used to describe an alliance between the state and corporate business, while the latter is used simply to describe free market activity. And they're not just distinct, they're in opposition, since the the more the state is involved in economic activity, even if in support of certain corporations or economic sectors, the less markets and trade are free. One variety of corporatism, for example, is the notion of a national "industrial policy", of the sort that once was popular when Japan was more economically ascendant than it is now; another variety would be so-called "crony capitalism"; and still another is fascism, once quite the rage, but now of course fallen out of fashion. It's important to note, as an earlier post made clear, that versions of corporatism appear on both the left and right ends of the political spectrum.

The rise of the Tea Party phenomenon, however, has given added weight to the anti-corporatist right, and Sarah Palin is indeed front and center in that opposition. Here's a passage from her Facebook page, as quoted by Pethokoukis:
Of course, the big players who can afford lobbyists work the regulations in their favor, while their smaller competitors are left out in the cold. The result here are regulations that institutionalize the “too big to fail” mentality. … The president is trying to convince us that he’s taking on the Wall Street “fat cats,” but firms like Goldman Sachs are happy with federal regulation because, as one of their lobbyists recently stated, “We partner with regulators.” … You’ll find the name Goldman Sachs on many an Obama administration résumé, including Rahm Emanuel’s and Tim Geithner’s chiefs of staff. We need to be on our guard against such crony capitalism.
And here's Pethokoukis' own assessment:
Palinomics, embryonic as it is, seems to be rooted in “free-market populism,” a version of conservative thinking that is pro-market rather than pro-business. It says the role of government is to help markets function more fairly and efficiently for everyone, encouraging competition and “creative destruction” (which Palin specifically mentioned in her book). Pro-business policies, by contrast, can end up subsidizing favored companies, raising barriers to entry and otherwise entrenching the status quo.
All of which makes for an interesting potential conflict within the Republican Party itself, since, as that earlier post indicated, that consummate Party insider, Newt Gingrich,  may well be a leading figure of the "pro-business" as opposed to the "pro-market" politicians.


  1. You’ll find the name Goldman Sachs on many an Obama administration résumé, including Rahm Emanuel’s and Tim Geithner’s chiefs of staff. We need to be on our guard against such crony capitalism.

    Palin wrote that?? Viva Comrade Sarah! It was probably one of her assistants. A few Teabaggers seem to have a somewhat mercantile sensibility (...arguably democratic, rather than conservative) and that's not entirely misguided, however quaint--it's when the Glenn Beck-Speak replaces the Ben Franklin-Speak that we should be concerned (given that the Becks and Hagees far outnumber the Bens and Hamiltons, we should be concerned).

  2. If by "mercantile" you mean market-oriented, yes. If you mean "mercantilist", no -- mercantilism has much more in common with corporatism than with free markets.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Mecantilism means all sorts of different things to different econo-types but generally involved protectionism of a sort (and often, nationalism). So those who suggest that certain types of businesses (like, Ma and Pa shops of whatever type) be protected or subsidized by the Govt. arguably supports mercantilism of some type or another.

    In effect free market advocates don't differ that much from corporatists, except in terms of the businesses they what to protect: one favors the govt. helping out local donut, or t-shirt--or Harley stores (in Mama Palin's case)--, and the other says the Govt. should help out G-sachs, Walmart, Microsoft, Apple, Ford etc. Which is to say, supposed capitalists often want govt. intervention of some sort or another--end monopolies, make the playing field level, offer loans--make the market freer!--forgetting that the "free market" resulted in Wallymart and the rest.

  5. "Free market advocates" advocate free markets -- it's a tautology. And a free market is, by definition, antithetical to government intervention -- government intervention to free markets is sort of like destroying a village in order to save it. Walmart is indeed a result of free markets and the free choices people make to shop there.

  6. Nonetheless many conservatives and free market advocates want protectionism of various sorts, whether through controlling imports, or being granted small business loans/perqs, or saying "buy American" at Ma n Pa's tire store--or Dodge, instead of the Walmart chinese stuff, Hondas, etc. When Palin opposes "crony capitalism", she sounds nearly...liberal insofar that she wants some govt. intervention to break up finance corps, etc.

  7. Yes, many conservatives and so-called free market advocates want protectionism or other sorts of government intervention -- they're the corporatists on the right, just as liberal-lefties advocating bail-outs, government ownership, national industrial policies, etc. are corporatists on the left. Very few people are pure corporatists (which would be close to fascism anyway) or pure free-marketers, (or, for that matter, pure anything) but the important question is which way do they lean and by how much.

  8. liberal-lefties advocating bail-outs

    you mean TARP? That was initiated by Paulsen, following orders from Bush, with Obama supporting it, and voted in with bipartisan support, though the GOP started it. Demopublican, all the way. That said, I agree there is a anti-corporate right: say, the vegas libertarians of Reason--the Ted Nugent right.

  9. ... though the GOP started it.

    Ah, the old "They started it!" whine, still heard on schoolyards across the nation. And as mothers everywhere respond, "I don't care who started it, don't you continue it!"

  10. You started the Bail-out whine, didn't you--but your most egregious error consists of thinking some great division holds between corporate liberals and corporate repubs when the TARP fiasco shows how similar they are when it comes to economic matters (and military matters, as well, usually).

  11. ... your most egregious error consists of thinking some great division holds between corporate liberals and corporate repubs....

    My point, in fact, was just the opposite -- that in these matters "corporate liberals and corporate repubs" are quite similar.


You can use some HTML tags, such as <b>, <i>, <a>