Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Vain and Empty Hope

"Conservatives have often placed their central hopes in big businessmen. This view of big business was most starkly expressed in Ayn Rand’s dictum that “Big Business is America’s most persecuted minority.” Persecuted? With a few honorable exceptions, big business jostles one another eagerly to line up at the public trough. Does Lockheed, or General Dynamics, or AT&T, or Nelson Rockefeller feel persecuted?

Big business support for the Corporate Welfare-Warfare State is so blatant and so far-ranging, on all levels from the local to the federal, that even many conservatives have had to acknowledge it, at least to some extent. How then explain such fervent support from “America’s most persecuted minority?” The only way out for conservatives is to assume (a) that these businessmen are dumb, and don’t understand their own economic interests, and/or (b) that they have been brainwashed by leftliberal intellectuals, who have poisoned their souls with guilt and misguided altruism. Neither of these explanations will wash, however, as only a glance at AT&T or Lockheed will amply sho w. Big businessmen tend to be admirers of statism, to be “corporate liberals,” not because their souls have been poisoned by intellectuals, but because a good thing has thereby been coming their way. Ever since the acceleration of statism at the turn of the twentieth century, big businessmen have been using the great powers of State contracts, subsidies and cartelization to carve out privileges for themselves at the expense of the rest of the society. It is not too farfetched to assume that Nelson Rockefe ller is guided far more by self- interest than he is by woolly- headed altruism. It is generally admitted even by liberals, for example, that the vast network of government regulatory agencies is being used to cartelize each industry on behalf of the large firms and at the expense of the public. But to salvage their New Deal world-view, liberals have to console themselves with the thought that these agencies and similar “reforms,” enacted during the Progressive, Wilson, or Rooseveltian periods, were launched in good faith, with the “public weal” grandly in view. The idea and genesis of the agencies and other liberal reforms were therefore “good”; it was only in practice that the agencies somehow slipped into sin and into subservience to private, corporate interests. But what Kolko, Weinstein, Domhoff and other revisionist historians have shown, clearly and thoroughly, is that this is a piece of liberal mythology. In reality, all of these reforms, on the national and local levels alike, were conceived, written, and lobbied for by these very privileged groups themselves. The work of these historians reveals conclusively that there was no Golden Age of Reform before sin crept in; sin was there from the beginning, from the moment of conception. The liberal reforms of the Progressive-New Deal-Welfare State were designed to create what they did in fact create: a world of centralized statism, of “partnership” between government and industry, a world which subsists in granting subsidies and monopoly privileges to bus iness and other favored groups.

Expecting the Rockefellers or the legion of other favored big businessmen to convert to a libertarian or even a laissez-faire view is a vain and empty hope. But this is not to say that all big businessmen, or businessmen in general, must be written off. Contrary to the Marxists, not all businessmen, or even big businessmen, constitute a homogeneous economic class with identical class interests. On the contrary, when the CAB confers monopoly privileges on a few large airlines, or when the FCC confers a monopoly on AT&T, there are numerous other firms and businessmen, small and large, who are injured and excluded from the privileges. The conferring of a monopoly of communications on AT&T by the FCC, for example, for a long while kept the now rapidly growing data communications industry stagnating in infancy; it was only an FCC decision to allow competition that enabled the industry to grow by leaps and bounds. Privilege implies exclusion, so there will always be a host of businesses and businessmen, large and small, who will have a solid economic interest in ending State control over their industry. There are therefore a host of businessmen, especially those remote from the privileged “Eastern Establishment,” who are potentially receptive to free market and libertarian ideas."

From For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard

Copyright © 1973, 1978 by Murray N. Rothbard, and 2002 this online edition by The Ludwig von Mises Institute. Used with permission.

1 comment:

Clay Barham said...

This is directed at those who admire and criticize Ayn Rand’s beliefs about people who stand on their own feet. Most who criticize Rand say she promoted selfishness, thereby greed, which is self-centered and anti-individual creativity, therefore, anti-Rand. Rand admired the creative individual, such as James Jerome Hill, on whom she was reputed to have based her character Dabney Taggart in Atlas Shrugged. If we look at Howard Roark’s summation to the jury, from Fountainhead, we do not see a self-centered individual destroying his work. Were he greedy, he would have simply accepted his payment. We see a self-interested, other- and outer-centered individual in love with his own dreams and creations, as one would love a spouse, child or family and refuse to allow them to be assaulted. Though love for anything spiritual may be missing, a great idea or vision also measures up to that which is spiritual, and that view is not inconsistent with Christianity. See Claysamerica.com, where you will find Bastiat's comment from his TO THE YOUTH OF FRANCE..