FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"Crony Capitalism” and "Corporatism”

by KEVIN CARSON

Recently Mike Konczal (“‘Corporatism’ is the Latest Hysterical Right-Wing Accusation,” The New Republic, December 15) attacked “corporatism” as a pernicious right-wing meme, ostensibly aimed at exposing Obama’s policies for “enriching the well-off” but in reality a “reactionary” agenda freeing big business from accountability.

I think he underestimates the extent to which the “corporatism” and “crony capitalism” critiques reflect a genuine opposition to collusion between big government and big business. For some on the maintream Right, like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, it’s obviously a facile political maneuver unmistakable apologists for a right-wing, pro-corporate economic agenda. But even in the case of some on the Right, I think opposition to “too big to fail” and bailouts is closer in spirit to those of us on the anti-corporate Left than to those on the Center-Left like Konczal.

Of course even the sincere right-wing critiques of “crony capitalism” are woefully inadequate. Most of them focus mainly on criticism of Obama-era policies like subsidies to Solyndra, or at most take a few shots at George W. Bush’s TARP program and Medicare D as deviations from Reaganite orthodoxy. At best, they see “corporatism” and “crony capitalism” as something fairly recent that started with the Federal Reserve Act or New Deal, as deviations from the purer laissez-faire of previous years.

These conservatives and right-wing libertarians drastically underestimate the extent to which state intervention has been structurally central to capitalism as a historical system since its very beginnings. The enclosure of open fields for sheep pasture in late medieval and early modern times, the Parliamentary Enclosures of common woods, waste and pasture in the 18th century, the colonial enclosure of land in the Third World and eviction of native cultivators, the engrossment of Third World mines and mineral resources, the enslavement of nonwhite populations … nothing remotely resembling the contemporary concentration of economic power and wealth, or the model of corporate capitalism most people think of as “normal,” would ever have been possible without all these forms of state intervention.

But Konczal himself has a lot in common with the right-wingers in underestimating the sheer statism of pre-20th century capitalism. As a left-wing market anarchist, it turns out I’m actually way more anti-capitalist than Konczal. Many of the things he considers a normal part of the market are things that I consider illegitimate state interventions in the market on behalf of plutocrats and big business: “Intellectual property,” absentee title to vacant and unimproved land and corporate limited liability, for example.

Konczal accepts as self-evident measures to restrain corporate power for the “general welfare” a lot of things from the “populist and progressive eras” that are in fact of central structural importance to corporate capitalism as we know it. Marxists considerably further to the left than Konczal, like Gabriel Kolko (Railroads and Regulation, The Triumph of Conservatism), have argued that the main function of the regulatory state was to cartelize the economy and restrict price and quality competition in order to make stable oligopoly markets possible for the first time.

On the other hand, Konczal points to several forms of statism that right-wing ostensible enemies of “corporatism” ignore. For example, the “hard money” policies that right-wingers support in fact require a state-enforced monopoly on the issue of currency. And while Tim Carney praises Bill Gates and Warren Buffet as non-corporatist (in fact I’ve seen them more often praised by “Progressives”), as Konczal points out “it’s impossible to imagine their wealth without elaborate systems of intellectual property protection or limited-liability corporate structures.” My main difference from Konczal is that I view “intellectual property” and limited liability as fundamentally illegitimate. My vision of a genuine free market economy is a lot closer to Kropotkin’s Field’s Factories and Workshops than anything the folks at FreedomWorks or the Club for Growth have come up with.

So the Right is entirely correct that big business and big government are in collusion under the Obama administration. Where they go wrong is failing to recognize that they’ve been in such collusion for the past 500 or 600 years.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory.

Kevin Carson is a senior fellow of the Center for a Stateless Society (c4ss.org) and holds the Center’s Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory. He is a mutualist and individualist anarchist whose written work includes Studies in Mutualist Political Economy, Organization Theory: A Libertarian Perspective, and The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto, all of which are freely available online. 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
April 28, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Slandering Populism: a Chilling Media Habit
Andrew Levine
Why I Fear and Loathe Trump Even More Now Than On Election Day
Jeffrey St. Clair
Mountain of Tears: the Vanishing Glaciers of the Pacific Northwest
Philippe Marlière
The Neoliberal or the Fascist? What Should French Progressives Do?
Conn Hallinan
America’s New Nuclear Missile Endangers the World
Peter Linebaugh
Omnia Sunt Communia: May Day 2017
Vijay Prashad
Reckless in the White House
Brian Cloughley
Who Benefits From Prolonged Warfare?
Kathy Kelly
The Shame of Killing Innocent People
Ron Jacobs
Hate Speech as Free Speech: How Does That Work, Exactly?
Andre Vltchek
Middle Eastern Surgeon Speaks About “Ecology of War”
Matt Rubenstein
Which Witch Hunt? Liberal Disanalogies
Sami Awad - Yoav Litvin - Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb
Never Give Up: Nonviolent Civilian Resistance, Healing and Active Hope in the Holyland
Pete Dolack
Tribunal Finds Monsanto an Abuser of Human Rights and Environment
Christopher Ketcham
The Coyote Hunt
Mike Whitney
Putin’s New World Order
Ramzy Baroud
Palestinian, Jewish Voices Must Jointly Challenge Israel’s Past
Ralph Nader
Trump’s 100 Days of Rage and Rapacity
Harvey Wasserman
Marine Le Pen Is a Fascist—Not a ‘Right-Wing Populist,’ Which Is a Contradiction in Terms
William Hawes
World War Whatever
John Stanton
War With North Korea: No Joke
Jim Goodman
NAFTA Needs to be Replaced, Not Renegotiated
Murray Dobbin
What is the Antidote to Trumpism?
Louis Proyect
Left Power in an Age of Capitalist Decay
Medea Benjamin
Women Beware: Saudi Arabia Charged with Shaping Global Standards for Women’s Equality
Rev. William Alberts
Selling Spiritual Care
Peter Lee
Invasion of the Pretty People, Kamala Harris Edition
Cal Winslow
A Special Obscenity: “Guernica” Today
Binoy Kampmark
Turkey’s Kurdish Agenda
Guillermo R. Gil
The Senator Visits Río Piedras
Jeff Mackler
Mumia Abu-Jamal Fights for a New Trial and Freedom 
Cesar Chelala
The Responsibility of Rich Countries in Yemen’s Crisis
Leslie Watson Malachi
Women’s Health is on the Chopping Block, Again
Basav Sen
The Coal Industry is a Job Killer
Judith Bello
Rojava, a Popular Imperial Project
Robert Koehler
A Public Plan for Peace
Sam Pizzigati
The Insider Who Blew the Whistle on Corporate Greed
Nyla Ali Khan
There Has to be a Way Out of the Labyrinth
Michael J. Sainato
Trump Scales Back Antiquities Act, Which Helped to Create National Parks
Stu Harrison
Under Duterte, Filipino Youth Struggle for Real Change
Martin Billheimer
Balm for Goat’s Milk
Stephen Martin
Spooky Cookies and Algorithmic Steps Dystopian
Michael Doliner
Thank You Note
Charles R. Larson
Review: Gregor Hens’ “Nicotine”
David Yearsley
Handel’s Executioner
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail