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:
June 29, 2016
Diana Johnstone
European Unification Divides Europeans: How Forcing People Together Tears Them Apart
Andrew Smolski
To My Less-Evilism Haters: A Rejoinder to Halle and Chomsky
Jeffrey St. Clair
Noam Chomsky, John Halle and a Confederacy of Lampreys: a Note on Lesser Evil Voting
David Rosen
Birth-Control Wars: Two Centuries of Struggle
Sheldon Richman
Brexit: What Kind of Dependence Now?
Yves Engler
“Canadian” Corporate Capitalism
Lawrence Davidson
Return to the Gilded Age: Paul Ryan’s Deregulated Dystopia
Priti Gulati Cox
All That Glitters is Feardom: Whatever Happens, Don’t Blame Jill Stein
Franklin Lamb
About the Accusation that Syrian and Russian Troops are Looting Palmyra
Binoy Kampmark
Texas, Abortion and the US Supreme Court
Anhvinh Doanvo
Justice Thomas’s Abortion Dissent Tolerates Discrimination
Victor Grossman
Brexit Pro and Con: the View From Germany
Manuel E. Yepe
Brazil: the Southern Giant Will Have to Fight
Rivera Sun
The Nonviolent History of American Independence
Adjoa Agyeiwaa
Is Western Aid Destroying Nigeria’s Future?
Jesse Jackson
What Clinton Should Learn From Brexit
Mel Gurtov
Is Brexit the End of the World?
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail