The Corporatism We Left

Samuel Gregg, in his recent article The New Corporatism, shares some insightful history about the corporatism our founders fled from and the liberty they enjoyed:

In a way, however, we’re been here before. One of the American Revolution’s underlying causes was the colonists’ knowledge that many of the British government’s economic policies, such as its imposition of import and export duties upon the colonies, owed much to a widespread collusion between many British officials and MPs on the one hand, and British merchants on the other.

As was pointed out at the time by the most economically astute of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, many British merchants were terrified of competition from their American counterparts. Why? Because economic freedom threatened the government-licensed monopolies they had secured though their close (and very well-greased) relationships with government ministers and parliamentarians. To Carroll’s mind, however, even worse was that this “ministerial influence and parliamentary corruption,” as he described it in a 1765 letter, indicated that Parliament had forgotten “they are the guardians of sacred liberty, and of our happy constitution.”

And that perhaps is what’s so disturbing about the new corporatism in America. It’s not just the Tammany Hall-like political shenanigans or the economic Detroitification which it facilitates. The new corporatism’s most worrying aspect is that it suggests that large swaths of America’s political class (and their legion of enablers that stretches far, far beyond the Beltway) isn’t, deep-down, especially interested in freedom and opportunity for all, and perhaps hasn’t been for some time now.

In 1765, Charles Carroll informed one of his correspondents in Britain that “the Americans… are not yet corrupt enough to undervalue Liberty, they are truly sensible of its blessings, and not only talk of them as they do somewhere else, but really wish their continuance.” In light of the new corporatism, however, the question facing us is whether enough Americans, 248 years after Carroll penned these words, can really say the same today.

© 2013, Rick Hogaboam. All rights reserved.

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