Obama’s corporatism: the beauty of pushing a button

April 13, 2009

A good article by Steven Malanga at Real Clear Markets on President Obama and the resurgence of corporatism:

All of this is the result of an entrepreneurial revolution spurred by everything from intensifying international competition starting in the late 1950s, to the lowering of confiscatory tax rates starting in the 1960s, to a series of technological revolutions that gathered momentum in the 1970s, to the taming of inflation in the early 1980s. During that time the corporate team player, the quintessential organizational man, slowly gave way to the dazzling but disruptive entrepreneur whose innovations rapidly reshaped the economy"and the ranks of corporate America"several times over.

But we are entering quite a different age right now, one in which the President of the United States and his hand-selected industrial overseers fire the chief executive of General Motors and chart the company’s next moves in order to preserve it. Conservative critics of the president have said that the government’s GM strategy is one of many examples of an America drifting toward socialism. But President Obama is not a socialist. If his agenda harks back to anything, it is to corporatism, the notion that elite groups of individuals molded together into committees or public-private boards can guide society and coordinate the economy from the top town and manage change by evolution, not revolution. It is a turn-of-the 20th century philosophy, updated for the dawn of the 21st century, which positions itself as an antidote to the kind of messy capitalism that has transformed the Fortune 500 and every corner of our economy in the last half century. To do so corporatism seeks to substitute the wisdom of the few for the hundreds of millions of individual actions and transactions of the many that set the direction of the economy from the bottom up.

Once reason I’m attracted to free-market capitalism is my conviction that modern industrial and information economies are far too complex to be managed by a relative few "experts" — the vision that so enraptured the Progressives and continues to seduce their heirs among the liberal Democrats, including President Obama. There are too many "inputs," too many random factors at all different levels of society for government managers to be able to "push a button to solve problems," as Malanga describes it. The free market really is best, with each individual seeking their own best interest; the best results for society as a whole comes from the aggregate of those interactions.

Call it corporatism, or statism, or liberal fascism, we had learned by the end of the 1970s that it really didn’t work and elected Ronald Reagan in part to lead us back to a freer, more flexible system. Now that those who don’t remember the 70s have elected the most blatant corporatist since Franklin Roosevelt, it looks like we may have to learn those lessons again.


Sandbag saved

April 13, 2009

An update on this story: Sandbag has found a new home with the Royal Navy.

Whitehall still should have waived the quarantine fees for him. Cheapskates.