Corporate Welfare and Corporatism
Here is a short essay I wrote for my American Government Class on Corporate Welfare. I hope to further explore and expand on the ideas presented in the future. I always appreciate suggested sources and helpful comments. Enjoy!
Corporations are firms or companies (private, publicly traded, for profit, and/or non-profit) that agree to be regulated by certain rules, corporate law, that regulates the relationships and interactions of corporate management, shareholders/owners, employees, creditors and the government. Companies agree to these rules because they provided limited liabilities to all actual persons who are a part of the corporation by creating an artificial “person hood” status for the corporation and limiting the liabilities to that entity. The government also uses its state power to protect, from competition through tariffs and regulation, and subsidize these entities. In return, the government is able to manipulate the economy through few points, they can regulate the significantly fewer large corporations easier than they could coordinate and regulate different stores on every corner, and they will be working with voluntary and cooperative participants who want the continued benefits of state power. Understanding “corporate welfare” is a bit more complex since no one wants to claim to support such measures but nearly all political parties and platforms do in some form or another. In fact, the entire concept of the “corporation” is a form of corporate welfare, or redistributing wealth or interfering in the market on behalf of companies or firms. Support for corporate welfare is never described as such but almost the entire political class does support it in its more overt forms or it's more subtle indirect forms. Libertarians, on the other hand, oppose all forms of corporate welfare when they are not being negligent or inconsistent with their principles.
The left supports several types of corporate welfare. The recent “Kelo” case involving eminent domain gave private lands to corporate interests and was decided by liberal judges. Also, many of the regulations that are supposedly done to restrict corporate actions are supported by the corporations themselves because it makes it more difficult for new competitors to enter the market. Roderick T. Long in an essay written for the Cato Institute, “Corporations versus the Market” wrote that , “the ability of colossal firms to exploit economies of scale is also limited in a free market...unless the state enables them to socialize these costs by immunizing them from competition- e.g., by imposing fees, licensure requirements, capitalisation requirements, and other regulatory burdens that disproportionately impact newer, poorer entrants as opposed to richer, more established firms.” (1)
The right also supports several types of corporate welfare, but they may be more dangerous since they shroud their policies in the cloak of the free market. For example, they advocate tax breaks for certain businesses or industries but “when a firm is exempted from taxes to which its competitors are subject, it becomes the beneficiary of state coercion directed against others, and to that extent owes its success to government intervention rather than market forces.” (1) The right's use of privatization is often of a similar nature. In free market terminology privatization would be the removal of government and its influence from an industry but the right often uses it to mean a transfer of monopoly status over an industry to some contracted firm or corporation. Thus the monopoly status is maintained and the governments involvement and influence is still present.
The right and left both justify the more overt types of corporate welfare that they end up supporting, such as TARP and the bailouts of the auto and financial industry, as necessary evils. However, necessary evil is a contradiction as if something is necessary than it must be good and not evil. Here we can apply one of Ayn Rand's famous quotes “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” In this case, either the bailouts were necessary and good, having a positive effect, while the principle that labeled them evil must be ill founded or the principle that makes such bailouts evil is correct and they were not in fact necessary. The contradiction should force us to check the two premises “necessary” and “evil” and see which one is wrong.
Libertarians, and the position I support, holds that all corporate welfare is wrong. The current “conflation” of corporatism and capitalism is especially dangerous since it rallies and multiplies the opponents of free markets who somehow see them tied to pro-corporate policies and also allows statist policies to be sold under the mantle of the free market. The current failures of “capitalism” and the “free market” are really only failures of the current system which is often labeled capitalism but is only one step away from socialism. In socialism, the state owns industry but in our current system, often labeled capitalism, the states of privatized profits and socialized costs in exchange for regulation and influencing willing participants and created corporatism which should not be confused with real capitalism or free markets.
Another good article I read while doing my research, but did not have room to include in my post was:
http://188.8.131.52/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=22594/ An article in FrontPageMag.com
Originally posted on DamienManier.com