Friday, July 18, 2014

Pray for "gridlock"

I recently did some teaching in China. What did my students hear from me?  Among other things, there is Good Capitalism and Bad Capitalism (to borrow the title of a fine book on the subject).  The bad is crony capitalism. What did I learn from my students? China's big problem is corruption which is rooted in what we call crony capitalism. There are huge differences between the two countries (will China ever have a Silicon Valley?) but they share a common plague.

Some years ago, Virginia Postrel (The Future and Its Enemies) suggested that our traditional left-right distinctions in politics ("liberal" vs. "conservative") mean very little. She argued for the more interesting distinction is between those who are comfortable vs uncomfortable with change.  Rapid change is here to stay and she makes a good case.  She begins the book by citing areas of agreement between "left-wing" Ralph Nader and "right-wing" Pat Buchanan. Both preferred protectionism to free trade.

Today's WSJ includes a review of Nader's Unstoppable (which I have not read) by David Asman. Look at what the reviewer says:
Mr. Nader, the consumer crusader who ran for president to the left of Al Gore, is perhaps the last person one would expect to admire a libertarian critique of the corporate state. But in "Unstoppable" he respectfully describes the views of Ludwig Von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek, Milton Friedman, George Stigler and other free-market economists. He praises their distrust of politicians, lobbyists and businessmen who seek to put government power in the service of corporate profit.
Strange bedfellows again. Both of the major U.S. political parties have become dominant because each have achieved their own crony capitalist coalitions. Each has also created a formidable infrastructure that assures survival. What is to be done? Avoid "feel good" voting for attractive but unelectable candidates, split your votes between the parties, split any financial support, never vote for an incumbent, pray for "gridlock".

My hotel room television showed well over a hundred government network channels. One channel was all-English language. What did it play? Twenty-four hours continuous episodes of House of Cards. My students reported  that people love it.