Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Libertarian Takes On Occupy Wall Street

I've previously mentioned the common ground I believe libertarians can hold with left and right alike on Occupy Wall Street. Mainly, the bailouts to financial institutions were not just. If we just keep it right there, we can get along. If we start shading it, the coalition that would be falls apart- fast.

I really like what Libertarian Party Chair Mark Hinkle had to say about OWS and crony capitalism, in a recent press statement:

"It's true that 99% of Americans do not enjoy the special benefits of crony capitalism. Crony capitalism is very different from real capitalism. In crony capitalism, government hands out special favors and protections to politically well-connected businesses.

"The TARP bailouts, Solyndra, and the military-industrial complex are all facets of crony capitalism.

"Libertarians love free markets and hate crony capitalism.

"Unfortunately, hypocritical Republican politicians have taught a lot of Americans to think that 'free markets' means freedom for government and big business to engage in crony capitalism.

"That's not what free markets are. A free market is where the government leaves businesses alone, does not attempt to pick winners and losers, does not stifle competition, does not hand out corporate welfare, and does not absolve businesses of liability for their actions. Most of our economy today does not resemble a free market at all.

I would be interested in seeing an OWS reaction to this statement. Can people on the left agree and draw the distinction between actual capitalism and crony capitalism? Can the left agree that corruption is dependent upon crony capitalism, or do they actually like crony capitalism- so long as the winners chosen are ones they favor, such as green business?

For that matter, can the right see the same distinctions? Can they shed crony capitalism when the chosen winners are military suppliers?

Doug Masson has some similar ponderings today:
It’s always seemed to me that the corporate form should be anathema to Libertarians. It’s a government construct that exists for the purpose of evading personal responsibility.
I quite agree. It's interesting to see some libertarians and folks on the right who love all things business, and should equally cherish self-responsibility, overlook the latter in embracing corporations, merely because corporations are business entities. Business in and of itself is not the same thing as free enterprise.

We all have blind spots. These are the days when it would be a great idea to self-examine and find those blind spots, and acknowledge them. We end up with shitty solutions when we're full of shit.


Doug said...

Just throwing this out - don't have time to think it through and won't for awhile. But, in addition to opposing "crony capitalism," I might suggest something about opposing capitalism where it doesn't meet assumptions about when and why the market is valuable.

What I have in mind is embracing capitalism where consumers have good access to information, consumers have legitimate choices on purchases, and the costs of production are not externalized onto someone other than buyer and seller. (And working to create those conditions where they don't exist.)

Mike Kole said...

I'd be interested to see some examples. I agree that some things aren't best handled by the market- fire protection is the classic example- but of course, I find them few and far between, especially given the conditions you site on 'good access to information'. We have better access to information now than at any time in human history.

One item I have shifted thought on over time is water service. I was completely sold on the idea that water service should be a public utility and not subject to the market, on the same basis of fire protection, namely, equal access. Being involved in infrastructure related fields for so many years, and having read up on water policy in the US, has now changed my outlook that it can be privatized- so long as there really are more than one service provider. A private monopoly would lead me straight back to concerns of access to a vital resource.

Doug said...

Private monopolies are one concern I have. I think antitrust laws have their uses.

Pollution is another concern - if companies can dispose of manufacturing waste without paying to clean it up; the price of the product does not (imho) reflect its true cost.

Health care is another example; though I know it only has a nodding acquaintance with a "free market" industry. But, given the secrecy of hospital chargemasters, you can't really get a good idea of what - say - a hip replacement is going to cost you.

Mike Kole said...

In the case of health care, I would argue that the price problem starts with the lack of a relationship on price between patient and caregiver. Since the patient relies on insurance to cover, the patient doesn't shop for price. The caregiver rings up the price as high as the insurance will cover, regardless of the reality. Government only makes that worse when it mandates coverage. I've continued to find it interesting that Lasik prices are easy to find out about, that the cost of Lasik is pretty flat or falling, and the results are getting better and better- and it generally isn't covered by insurance, or mandated by law. There's something we should be learning from uncovered electives and applying to general care more broadly.

Doug said...

Probably something to learn from electives, but I'd be very careful about assuming that lessons from elective procedures translate into lessons for necessary procedures.

Market dynamics are very different in situations where you can just walk away and do without if you choose.