A recent column in Investors Business Daily took up the task of comparing a few of the different iterations of “capitalism” that we hear discussed these days, “real capitalism,” “crony capitalism,” and “state capitalism.” Real capitalism, the kind favored by the author, is placed in opposition to the bailouts of Chrysler and GM, phenomena which the author must then somehow fit into his worldview of adulation for America’s corporate giants.
Since there is of course no way that Big Biz could really be the villain of the tale, could really be the true beneficiary of Big Government, he says, “It wasn’t so much an auto company bailout as a bailout of a union whose workers were averaging $70 an hour in wages and lavish vacation, pension, and health insurance benefits — which played a big part I nearly destroying the companies. “No, no, it couldn’t have been corporate welfare for the rich! No way — we know that they earn their keep. It was those darn workers again, always ruining “real capitalism” by trying to get something for nothing, perquisites like a survivable retirement and some decent health insurance; they ought to be ashamed. IBD demonstrates the lengths that capitalism’s many apologists will go to in order to disregard the conclusions that actual political economy presents about the relationship between capital and the state. They couldn’t very well admit that even their “real capitalism” is a system of privilege in contradiction to the free market, so when the basest, most obvious instances of privilege crop up, they’re forced to chalk them up to those nasty unions. Then they can comfortably call it “state capitalism” and go right back to defending the rich as innovators, entrepreneurs and hard workers. But despite all of these eager hymns to capitalism, they almost always tend to ignore the most deeply rooted forms of state granted privilege, handicaps on competition that don’t benefit labor but systematically disadvantage it. The lesson? Whenever some talking head tells you that “[t]oo few people in the federal government favor capitalism,” think for a bit on the aggregate effect of the many subsidies, licenses, regulatory burdens and other barriers to full competition. All of that is helping wage laborers more than corporate execs? Could’ve fooled me.