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Jerry Shenk


Capitalism: Pro-Market, Not Pro-Business

by Jerry Shenk
 

There are long lists of large American businesses, the lobbyists they hire, the industry-promotion organizations they fund and the politicians they buy -- all to pursue their special interests -- who want you to think that "pro-business" policies are beneficial to everyone.

That's usually not true. Vast differences exist between pro-business advocacy and free markets. Pro-business policies often work against markets, restrict economic freedom and hamper general prosperity.

In free markets, governments guarantee level playing fields for everyone, tax/govern all enterprises equally and encourage competition to provide consumers with lower cost, higher quality products.

Pro-business advocates — special interests, really — including the US Chamber of Commerce and its Commonwealth counterpart, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, often encourage government use of taxpayer assets to subsidize specific businesses and industries, provide special tax breaks and limit competition, often through gratuitous regulations with which smaller competitors and start-ups cannot affordably comply.

Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman wrote: "[B]usiness corporations in general are not defenders of free enterprise. On the contrary, they are one of the chief sources of danger."

Just because something is good for General Motors, Boeing, GE, Citigroup or Mack, now a Chinese-owned truck manufacturer, doesn't necessarily mean it's good for America, American consumers and/or taxpayers.

Official intervention in markets usually harms everyone not receiving government benefits. Generous special interests -- particularly big business and big labor — have too much influence over government allocation of public resources.

Large, "too-big-to-fail" corporations grow hidebound and inefficient with age. They become addicted to corporate welfare, embrace regulations which impede smaller, more nimble competitors, and they love monopolies.

Predictably, when consumer choices aren't allowed to determine market winners and losers, businesses and industries spend less time and effort satisfying customers and more of both — plus campaign cash — pursuing government favors and handouts. Industry lobbyists, the Chamber and hundreds of other special interests effectively conspire with elected officials to produce economic corruption and cronyism. And it's always taxpayers and consumers who pick up the tab.

American taxpayers were forced to bail out Chrysler Motors in 1979 and again in 2009. Finally, "sold" at taxpayer loss, Fiat now owns Chrysler.

Coerced by a government "blending mandate," taxpayers and consumers involuntarily support the ethanol industry even though it delivers an inferior motor fuel that harms engines and the environment, but which awards politicians millions in campaign graft.

These pages have featured pro-market columns exposing Export-Import Bank cronyism, including one by an internationally-respected economist. They were unconvincingly "rebutted" in an embarrassingly self-serving piece from a semi-local career politico who thrives on Ex-Im beneficiaries' campaign contributions, backed up, unsurprisingly, by a Chamber executive whose special interest organization's entire mission is to perpetuate the pro-business myth.

These troubling symbioses illustrate that crony capitalism is, indeed, a marriage of government officials and special interests. But, most such government/private "partnerships" are really abuses of public trust and treasure, corrupt perversions of free market capitalism which reward a privileged few at the expense of everyone else.



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