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A recent National Review article is titled “The Return of Conservative Economics.” When a politician or a political writer says his great new idea is “conservative,” grab your wallet and run the other way as fast as you can. Not only will it not be conservative, it will likely be daft — and accompanied by the force of law. The NRO article is a perfect example of this. It opens with:
Today we are announcing the formation of American Compass, an organization dedicated to helping American conservatism recover from its chronic case of market fundamentalism. In preparation, we have been perusing the mission statements of many of our nation’s think tanks. Nearly every group has one. Oddly, the right-of-center’s preeminent public-policy institutions all have the same one: to advance the principles of “limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty” or “free markets and limited, effective government” or “free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom” or “individual liberty, limited government, free markets” or “economic choice and individual responsibility” or “individual, economic, and political freedom; private enterprise; and representative government.”
I guess they find the concepts of limited government, free enterprise, and individual liberty boring.
What’s even less thought-provoking is the writer’s statement about “conservatism’s chronic case of market fundamentalism.” Tucker Carlson has said similar things.
So who are these market fundamentalists? Are we talking about the Bush administration, with its massive increase in government regulation, spending, dollar devaluation, and a new entitlement? Or is it Barack “you didn’t build that” Obama?
Those two administrations brought us almost 16 years of a slow growth “New Normal” and created a lot of misery for those at the bottom of the ladder. They were not market fundamentalists.
Things started getting better when Trump, between tweets, nudged the country toward free markets. You know. Like a market fundamentalist.
Other than that, market fundamentalism has not been a factor in the 21st century. People who think that too much “free market ideology” is the problem with conservatism simply aren’t watching what’s going on. Nor do they appear to be interested.
Off to a bad start, it gets worse:
Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) observed: “We have become defenders of the right of businesses to make a profit, the right of shareholders to receive a return on their investment, and the obligation people have to work. But we have neglected the rights of workers to share in the benefits they create for their employer — and the obligation of businesses to act in the best interest of the workers and the country that have made their success possible.”
What you’re hearing here is “Stakeholder Capitalism,” a fad that has been oozing out from under manhole covers for the past year or so. Market fundamentalism, if it ever came back, would stand in its way. Market fundamentalism would stand in the way of the good that Senator Rubio wants to do to people.
The sentiment expressed by the Senator would be nice, even compassionate, if expressed by a private citizen. But when the government says it, it is downright scary. Coercion is soon to follow.
A question for stakeholder capitalists: What if a corporation refuses to cooperate? What if the stockholders (owners) hold to the quaint idea that it is their money, they earned it and they have a right to spend or invest it as they see fit?
What should the punishment be?Published in