The divide between pro-market and pro-business


(From The Washington Times)

And now the chamber plans to spend up to $100 million on the 2016 campaign. Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reports, “Some of business’ top targets in 2016 will be right-wing, tea party candidates, the types that have bucked the corporate agenda in Congress by supporting government shutdowns, opposing an immigration overhaul and attempting to close the Export-Import Bank.” Politico adds a highway bill to big business’ list of grievances against fiscal conservatives.

This clash between pro-market and pro-business is an old one. Adam Smith wrote “The Wealth of Nations” to denounce mercantilism, the crony capitalism of his day. Milton Friedman said at a 1998 conference: “There’s a common misconception that people who are in favor of a free market are also in favor of everything that big business does. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

That long-ago ad opposing the first Chrysler bailout warned businesses that government money always comes with strings attached. You can’t support subsidies for exports, protection from imports, bailouts for Wall Street and tax-funded stimulus bills, and then credibly complain about the “avalanche of new rules, restrictions, mandates and taxes” that may destroy the free enterprise system.

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