Jewish World Review April 11, 2012/ 19 Nissan, 5772
Free the markets, Mr. Romney
By Jonah Goldberg
This to me is a more worrisome statement than his communications advisor's gaffe about Etch A Sketches or Romney's shout-out to
Over the last few years, the country has been subjected to a tutorial about the role of government. Thanks to the efforts of the
There are three potential problems with Romney's formulation. The first is political. As
Indeed, getting into a contest with President Obama over who is a better friend of business is not the winner some might think. Obama has given billions to big businesses, from
I'm not saying Obama's policies are valid or wise, but the water will get very muddy very quickly if Romney campaigns on who is business' BFF, especially when you consider that one of the things Romney did at
And that was a good thing. Free markets depend on failure, or what Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction." You can't have light bulbs without destroying much of the candle-making business. At Bain, Romney was part of the process that fueled innovation. That's nothing to be ashamed of.
Which brings us to the philosophical problem. Since the Progressive Era, American liberals have been in favor of some variant of corporatism or industrial policy. The idea stretching from
There's a huge difference between being pro-business and pro-free market. The government's role in the free market is to keep it free and fair, not to play favorites.
When government takes it upon itself to be the ally of business, certain biases often take over. For instance, existing industries have a huge advantage over ones that haven't been created yet. A more obvious bias is toward big companies over small ones. Big companies create constituencies and can afford lobbyists to make their case. Moreover, big business becomes a tempting vehicle for other policies like, say, providing health care. And why not: When government is scratching business' back, why shouldn't business return the favor?
There's a reason the
Indeed, big corporations are enjoying record profits under Obama, but as Romney noted, "New business start-ups -- and that's normally where we get job growth after a recession -- ... are down to the lowest level in 30 years." He needs to follow that train of thought.
In fairness to Romney, much of his rhetoric is very pro-free market and does draw a sharp contrast with Obama's crony capitalism. But then he'll hit one of those off-key notes and cause some to worry whether he's just saying the other stuff because that's what his advisors say he should say.
And that brings us to the third problem. What if Romney wins? A technocrat, he excels at accomplishing very specific tasks by getting deep into the numbers and listening to the best experts. That's great when it comes to turning around the Olympics or a fast-food chain. But that's also how he came up with "Romneycare."
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