Former president Jimmy Carter is now the most prominent figure to warn of America becoming an oligarchy. This term, “oligarchy,” is generally applied to post-Soviet Russia, where it took on a special meaning beyond the dictionary definition.
When the Russians tried to liberate their economy, all of the important assets – oil fields, power plants, and so forth – ended up in the hands of people with political connections. The oligarchs now control the economy, the government, and the state security apparatus.
It is painful to watch a formerly free economy, like ours, degenerate into the same condition. Russia simply failed to privatize properly her state-owned enterprises. Our shame is much greater. We are standing idly by, as an emerging oligarchy takes control of our government and our economy.
The so-called left and right have made common cause. The left loves government meddling in private enterprise – while the right thinks it is protecting same, when in fact they are only protecting entrenched corporate interests. We have written before about this mote in their eye.
The bailout of General Motors nicely illustrates this convergence. The left was able to claim they were “saving jobs,” which, as we explain here, is a chimera. Capitalism, as Detroiter Seth Godin explains, means letting incompetent companies go bust. Keeping zombie companies alive, with taxpayer money, prevents the creation of new jobs in vibrant new companies.
Not only should Congress facilitate the organized bankruptcy of the Big Three, but it should also make it easy for them to be replaced by 500 new car companies.
Our auto industry is a ward of the state, as is Boeing. Banking depends on the Federal Reserve’s largesse. Mortgage lending, and thus the housing industry, depends on the Fed and the FHFA. High tech avionics and robotics, obviously, are funded by the military. Including the Pentagon, as much as 20% of America’s labor force may depend ultimately on tax dollars.
Competition is what once made our economy stronger than the command economies of Russia and China. Even as their leaders are trying to wean China off state owned enterprise, we are allowing our economy to be nationalized by stealth. Businesses are capitalist when they start up but, once they are in a position to buy favors from the government, they become statist.
It is easy to see this unholy alliance of government and big business (and big unions) as a statist conspiracy. Jeremiah does not see conspiracy, however. He simply sees moneyed interests buying influence – to make more money – and government officials selling it, with a revolving door between the two.
Here is a long article in the New York Times explaining how the Clinton family raked in a little over $35 million during a mining rights transaction involving a Russian company and uranium in Wyoming. We write “during,” of course, because we don’t want to imply anything so crass as an outright sale of the State Department’s approval. Oh, and they paid Bill Clinton $500,000 to make a speech.
As the Russians gradually assumed control of Uranium One in three separate transactions from 2009 to 2013, Canadian records show, a flow of cash made its way to the Clinton Foundation.
America is being looted, and all of our assets will soon be in the hands of an oligarchy no different from Russia’s. We will be renting tiny homes from Blackstone, on a tiny stipend from HUD. Jeremiah has been watching this for a long time, and he can tell you that the pace is picking up. There has always been corruption, of course, but nothing so big and brazen as what we’ve seen lately.
Unfortunately, we don’t have any policy recommendation much better than those naïve calls to “clean up government.” One possibility might be to dismantle the regulatory agencies, the tax preferences, and corporate welfare. At this point, a return to laissez faire would be just as painful for the (faux) right as for the left.
This is not to endorse laissez faire, mind you. That would mean big setbacks for labor and the environment. The idea would be to “drain the swamp.” The less power government has over business, the less opportunity for corruption. Unable to buy favors from the state, companies would again be forced to compete.
Admittedly, this is not a great solution. At this late stage, it’s hard to imagine the oligarchy being rolled back by any means, and certainly not by the same voters who allowed it to develop in the first place.