American political dialogue often overlooks the difference between “pro-business” and “pro-market.” Failure to observe the implications of this difference leads both pundits and voters to believe that if a candidate is pro-business, naturally he is a zealous crusader for free markets.
Lately this oversimplified narrative finds itself challenged as business groups such as the US Chamber of Commerce increasingly back Democrats as opposed to Tea Party Republicans perceived as more libertarian than the traditional GOP and thus more willing to take policy positions hostile to big business.
Whatever the populist noise embedded in campaign talking points, the simple fact is that both major American political parties play the same corporate, big money game. Despite everything Republocrats say to the contrary, when the rubber hits the road you just won’t find a champion of the little guy among the elected American officialdom. On the contrary, in the end the real struggle isn’t between the Blue and Red teams — it’s between the political process itself, the whole mechanism of political authority, and the rest of us ordinary, working people just trying to pay our bills.
To glimpse the true relationship between big business and the State, we need only briefly examine the data on how the political action committees (PACs) of the nation’s largest and most influential companies spend their money. Consider a handful of examples from 2010: That year, major defense contractor Raytheon’s PAC gave 56 percent of its money to Democrats and 44 percent to Republicans. Aerospace giant Boeing’s PAC split its donations almost down the middle, shelling out 53 percent to the Dems and 47 percent to the GOP. Colossal agribusiness firm Monsanto gave 46 percent to Democrats and 54 percent to Republicans.
These divisions between donkey and elephant of course vary from election to election, depending on everything from the composition of congress to the likelihood of incumbent victory. And certainly marginal differences between individual candidates and even parties themselves may present themselves in a given election. The point, though, is that corporate entities are very much like the state itself, ultimately nonpartisan, interested only in power and self-aggrandizement.
Make no mistake, our corporate leviathans couldn’t care less who is in office as long as she plays ball, perpetuating a venal game of public and private sector cohesion having nothing whatsoever to do with “liberty and justice for all.” Consider what we might think about a single individual who split his money almost evenly between the two major parties year after year; we may think he was crazy or had multiple personalities. When a single corporate entity does so, however, we regard the move (probably very correctly) as strictly strategic, an illustration of realpolitik and a way for a commercial enterprise to hedge its bets, ensuring good relations with both wings of political establishment.
These concrete collusions between corporate and State power are not necessarily planned or premeditated, but neither are they accidental. A centralized system of politics which grants sweeping law-making and discretionary powers to a relatively small, elite group incentivizes the abuse of those powers in favor of moneyed interests. As the individualist anarchist William Bailie wrote, “Laws are made directly or indirectly in the interest of the capitalist class, and they are always administered and interpreted … in the same spirit.”
Market anarchists look forward to a free and fair economic system in which big business and big government aren’t working together to rig the rules for the powerful and connected. Consistently observed, the freedoms of competition and exchange would in fact undermine the dominance of big business, which now relies on the State for countless special privileges. Since neither Republicans nor Democrats question the fundamental characteristics of this state-corporate system, the road to real change runs through neither.