Who's The Real Capitalist?

In listening to the argument between those who say Romney’s actions at Bain represent the so-called “excesses” of capitalism, and those who argue Romney had been nothing but a capitalist, and that there’s nothing wrong here, I find both sides of the dispute to be guilty of playing on bad definitions, poorly informed public sentiments, and worst of all, pure political hyperbole that may advance this candidate or that one for a short period of time, but will not accrue to the benefit on the right side of the aisle.  Rather than all this bomb-throwing, I’d prefer to sort this out, step by step, and weigh out the results as it is, rather than how any particular party wants it to be.  It’s time to untangle this so we can move on.

The parties representing the various points of view in this discussion to which I will confine my remarks are these:  Gingrich, Romney, and the media(left, right, and stooge.)  The first I will address is the view advanced by Newt Gingrich that Mitt Romney’s profits at Bain were excessive in light of closing down companies to do so.  First of all, let’s be honest enough to admit that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with profit from selling one’s labor, one’s property, or one’s investments.  This argument is so thoroughly flawed that as Limbaugh suggested Tuesday, it is more akin to the argument of Elizabeth Warren than a Republican seeking the nomination for President.  In justice, however, let us admit also that with 98% of all SuperPac advertising in Iowa and New Hampshire being used to assail Newt Gingrich, he was probably a little bit angry and lashing out.  I expect this wasn’t Gingrich’s strongest argument, and if  he had to do it again, I suspect he might change his approach.

In reviewing media defenses of Gingrich, I have read arguments that are roughly like this:  “Well, capitalism is all well and good, but you still have to temper it with morality.”  I want those purveyors of this opinion to pay closest attention to me, as I tell them that they’re shoveling manure.  Capitalism reflects a system of morality, and if you don’t share it, fine, but do not pretend that it means something else.  Do not take “capitalism” and twist the label to fit what is merely modified socialism.  There is nothing wrong with profits, whether large or small, nor any size in between, provided only this:  Those making profits do so by their own efforts and with their own wealth and property.  That’s the morality of capitalism.  It’s a morality I endorse entirely, and unreservedly.  Do not offer to me that capitalism must be “tempered” by something.  To temper a thing is to alter its fundamental structure.  In this case, “temper” is merely happy talk for “rigging the outcomes we prefer in spite of the market.”

You might claim “but to tear down a company in order to liquidate it and thereby turn a profit, when they didn’t build it is to be a vulture.”  True, but in capitalism as in nature, vultures perform a vital role, and while we may not regard the vulture with much sympathy, the truth is that he’s cleaning  up messes and putting to use that which would otherwise go to waste.  Then there are those who argue that if Bain hadn’t liquidated such companies as Smith Corona, they might still be in existence, and that their employees might still have jobs.  Let’s get something straight, right here, and right now:  There is no entitlement to a job.  There is no guarantee of work.  When a person accepts a job working for others, he is taking a risk that is subject to all the same vagaries of the market as those who invest in it.  This notion that capital must be the risk-taker, while labor must never shoulder the burdens of risk is absurd.  As long as a person works for others, that employee is accepting as one of the inherent risks of such an arrangement that the job could end for any reason, tomorrow. To make the petulantly childish argument that employment should be without risk is a tired attempt to subvert capitalism with collectivist ethics, and I will be no party to that.

On the other side of this ledger, we have Mitt Romney who argues that what Bain Capital did was perfectly legal, ethical, and within the description of capitalism.  When it comes to this “vulture” function others have derided, he’s correct, and even in his statement that he likes to be able to fire people, he is committing no breach.  The truth is that I like to be able to fire people, and if you’ve ever worked in an environment wherein getting rid of incompetent employees is institutionally difficult, you’d understand why.  Nothing saps the strength of any company more than the incompetent, the slackers, or those simply not up to the job for which they were hired.  With all of this in mind then, let us make clear where Romney falls off the tracks and plummets into the abyss, if this isn’t it.

Romney’s problems with capitalism are birthed less of his actions while at Bain than while in the Governor’s office in Massachusetts.  Romney-care, the completely socialist Massachusetts program that is the logical forerunner of Obamacare, is as anti-capitalist as it gets, complete with an insurance mandate.  This may be the shortest argument in this article, but it’s the most important:  Any health-care mandate, and any redistributionism is flatly anti-capitalistic.  Romney can parade around with his faulty excuses for this program on the basis of federalism, but it doesn’t wash.   This program forces people to buy insurance, and that is a tyrannical, anti-free market, anti-capitalist assault on the rights of individuals.

Another problem with Romney is that he implemented other socialistic programs while Governor, including “Welfare Wheels.”  It’s impossible for Romney to claim that Romney-care was a one-off or some sort of aberration in an otherwise capitalistic record.  More, he favored TARP, and this by itself is as anti-capitalistic as can be described, and I really don’t understand how the defenders of Romney on this issue can avoid addressing this, because it has been one of the staggering expenses absorbed by tax-payers, and if Romney’s support of TARP is any indication of how he will govern as President, he is a walking disaster for all Americans, and for capitalism in general.  There’s also some indication that while at Bain Capital, he was one of several beneficiaries of a bail-out when the parent company, Bain Company, sought and received forgiveness of some $10million in debt from the FDIC.

One of the things that demonstrates the point is a statement Romney made during a CBS interview on Wednesday, via TheHill:

“In the general election I’ll be pointing out that the president took the reins at General Motors and Chrysler – closed factories, closed dealerships laid off thousands and thousands of workers – he did it to try to save the business.”

Romney is now holding forth Obama’s GM bail-out as an example?  This isn’t the view of a capitalist, and I want you to understand that when Romney holds forth this view, he’s become a statist. The truth may be closer to this, and it’s what Mark Levin said in the first hour of his show last night:  Mitt Romney may be less a capitalist, and more of a corporatist.

Understanding this vital distinction is to enlighten the difference at stake in this nomination fight.  Capitalism is a distinctly classically liberal ideology inasmuch as it requires a strict observance of individual liberties, and almost complete sovereignty for actors within the free market.  Corporatism is illiberal, meaning it relies on coercion of individuals on behalf of corporate entities.  In that sense, it can be accurately stated that corporatism is a non-monarchical development of feudalism.  In corporatism, dynasties are favored, and the ruling class may not exercise direct power, but instead command economic decisions through their influence over the state.  In effect, it’s another manifestation of what you know as “crony capitalism,” a concept recently revived by Sarah Palin and other critics, who have accurately pointed out how thoroughly corrupting such a system can be.  What is critical to know about corporatism is that in order to operate, there must be a strong and thorough collusion with state authority and intervention into the market.  It often co-exists with socialism, and in fact, this has been the operative condition of the United States since approximately the time of Teddy Roosevelt.

Progressives of both parties are those who have sought to unite the worst features of corporatism with the worst actions of socialism.  This is the true nature of Mitt Romney, and of his general governing demeanor.  This is why I cannot support him, in point of fact, but it is also why such critics of Romney as Gingrich and Perry have a difficult time engaging in credible criticisms of him: In various ways, they too have been guilty of the same basic flaws, to degrees greater or lesser.  The media that is defending Romney is a part of the corporatist front, and it’s clear when you view Fox News that in the main, that is the nature of their advocacy.  Many have noted in the last several months that Fox News seems less and less conservative, while becoming increasingly friendly to establishment Republicans.  Bill O’Reilly is the perfect example, but the continuous presence of Karl Rove is another.  Rove is merely a political strategist and public relations master for the progressive, corporatist front.

The truth is that we must defeat not merely socialism, but also corporatism, and the problem is that while Gingrich runs around making arguments from the point of view of a socialist, he does so in grotesquely erroneous  identification of Romney’s worst actions as those of a capitalist.   Gingrich dare not assail Romney as a corporatist, of course, because Newt has had his dalliances with corporatism too.  Clearly, Perry and Santorum also avoid this, and for precisely the same reason.

So it is that at the moment, in the GOP you have a battle among progressive corporatists and a single libertarian, but no true capitalists.

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