“As Deirdre McCloskey put it:
“Anyone who after the 20th century still thinks that thoroughgoing socialism, nationalism, imperialism, mobilization, central planning, regulation, zoning, price controls, tax policy, labor unions, business cartels, government spending, intrusive policing, adventurism in foreign policy, faith in entangling religion and politics, or most of the other thoroughgoing 19th-century proposals for governmental action are still neat, harmless ideas for improving our lives… is not paying attention.”
This is an excellent essay.
We at Against Crony Capitalism are pro-market, not pro-business per se. We are liberals in the classical sense. Our disposition is forward looking. We are for greater freedom for the average person and for human actualization generally. We are for free prices. We are for change, real change, for the better. We are for liberty. Which is a truly radical notion if one really considers it.
And thankfully we have allies.
I once gave a talk in Oxford and an academic approached me afterwards and said that he was troubled by what I had said, for was it not obvious that the most evil people in the twentieth century were all, without exception, capitalists? Surely I could see that. I looked at him, wondering if this was a trick question. Er, what about Stalin, I said? And Hitler? Mao? Pol Pot?
OK, apart from them, he said.
Is it not bizarre, after the 20th century, that people are so forgiving of the state and so mistrustful of the market?
Visiting Auschwitz a few years ago I was struck not by what some have called the “industrialisation” of death – after all, it is a surprisingly low-tech place, even for the time. But by the “nationalisation” of death: the bureaucratic central planning and meticulous hierarchical organisation of mass murder, backed by state coercion not just of its victims but of its perpetrators too; to paraphrase Hillary Clinton, it takes a government to do a death camp.
Are the plights of North Korea, Afghanistan, Somalia, Congo, Venezeula or Syria caused by too much free enterprise? I don’t think so.
The dreadful Grenfell Tower fire was not caused by an excess of free enterprise; it was caused by terrible miscalculations or misregulations in the public sector. This was in a building that was planned, built, owned and managed by the public sector and refurbished by a contractor chosen and commissioned by the public sector according to regulations and guidelines devised in the public sector and in pursuit of a policy of retrofitting buildings with insulation that came from the public sector.
Whatever mistakes were made in the recladding of the building, or in the fire regulations, or in housing people in tower blocks in the first place – they did not come from too much free enterprise.
Nor was the crash of 2008 caused by too much free enterprise – not if you understand the role played by the Chinese government in driving down its exchange rate, the role played by the Federal Reserve in keeping down the cost of debt, and above all the role of government regulations in forcing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into the sub-prime lending business, where they could fuel a sub-prime boom on the back of government interest rates.
The lie that the crisis was a crisis of free markets, as opposed to crony corporatism, has long been exploded among serious scholars.