Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Capitalism Under Attack

No longer a full time resident of the district-- the District of Columbia, that is-- P. J. O’Rourke makes occasional return visits. He views Washington as an outsider, but also as a former insider. He bears witness to the transformation of Washington, D. C. into a center of money and power… not because of industry and commerce, not because it's an engine of economic growth... but because of the overwhelming power of the federal government.

Washington is no port or transportation axis or major marketplace for anything but egos. It is the business center of no business, the manufacturing hub of making nothing and spending all, incubator of no innovation except in fibs, and core of international banking only in the sense of a Federal Reserve financed by air.

Yet in fact, Washington’s growth and wealth are all too easily explained. People are flocking to the seat of government power. One would say “dogs returning to their vomit” except that’s too hard on dogs. Too hard on people, also. They come to Washington because they have no choice—diligent working breeds compelled to eat their regurgitated tax dollars.

The federal government has captured the economy of the United States, nationalizing and centralizing our labor and means of production to an extent not seen in avowedly Communist countries such as China and Vietnam.

Could it be that the power of America’s federal government surpasses the power of government in Communist countries? Could it be that American government exerts more influence over the economy than the governments of China and Vietnam? You will scoff at the notion. After all, we are smug Americans and we worship the god of liberal democracy. But, we have far more bureaucrats per capita than does Communist China. Do they interfere in economic decision making more than their Chinese counterparts?

I know that you are all anti-Communist, but have you asked yourself whether free enterprise is freer here or in authoritarian Asian regimes? Yes, I understand that they do not have political correctness and multicultural diversity. But, they also do not have human rights activists, environmental activists, trial lawyers and Antifa radicals. Think about it.

How did the American government become so powerful? O’Rourke gives full credit to entitlement spending, but we must also remark that unionized government employees have been contributing to political campaigns and that politicians, being politicians, have happily rewarded them with hefty pay increases. And extra work that justifies the larger salaries.

The federal government has done this not with the iron grid of Marxist theory but with the silken threads of entitlement spending, the caress of funding, the enticement of subsidy, and the seduction of easy monetary policy.

All these baits and lures are placed in Washington at the crux of a spider web of regulatory and legislative interference in the marketplace. If we want something—anything—we must go to Washington and beg it from the arachnids in charge.

Hence the gentrification of the once half-derelict quarters of the District, with courtiers now living in splendor where slum-dwellers would not live in squalor.

Again, O’Rourke properly identifies Washington’s propensity to interfere in the marketplace. Bureaucrats believe that capitalism is evil, for being venal, and thus needs strict adult supervision by Elizabeth Warren.

Who’s in charge of the government? O’Rourke calls them Beltway insiders:

Who is this new gentry? Are they squires with vast land holdings? (Sort of. The federal government owns 640 million acres of land, though not put to very productive use.) Are they an intellectual elite? Cue laughter. A military aristocracy? The knights in camouflaged armor are in aforementioned Helmand Province, not the Pentagon. The new gentry may be robbers but they are hardly baronial.

Actually, they aren’t even new. The gentry are, as they always were, just “Beltway insiders.” The difference is that now they are much more numerous, and they make much more money because as the size of government benefits has grown, so has the labor of extracting them.

It might be a good idea to stop imagining that we are the bastion of capitalist free enterprise and start seeing that capitalism is under attack… by the government.


David Foster said...

One thing that would help: Trump should move aggressively for the physical decentralization of much government activity. No need for so much of this to be in one place, if there ever was.

Sam L. said...

I'm with David on this.

Stuart Schneiderman said...

So am I.

Webutante said...

I too. Trump must return as much as possible to the states. What ever happened to the quaint concept of federalism?

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

I’m with David, too. It all starts with civil service reform. When they (inevitably) squawk, geographically decentralize. But both would be a great one-two punch!

The problem with federalism is that it’s not federal enough for those in D.C.

Webutante said...

Correct. It's fake enumerated powers.

Andrew said...

As an American who lived in China and in Vietnam, I would say that both of these nations, especially Vietnam, are more free in the ways that matter--that is the freedom to do things as opposed to the freedom to "protest," than my homeland. If my wife was willing to go I would return to Vietnam tomorrow.