Stop celebrating Corporatism: A Response to “How large, profit-hungry corporations helped create the middle class” by Doug Altner

A while back a friend passed on this article from the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights.  The article’s author Doug Altner is defending the role of large corporations had in the improvement of the standard of living of most Americans in the US during the twentieth century, with the implicit assumption that large corporations, themselves and their successes were not the products of government intervention in the economy but products of a free market.  Indeed, he says “And if they discussed this {the role of big business in the economy}, then more people would rightly call the government’s role in America’s economic progress into question”.  This strikes me as highly nonsensical since the era Altner is speaking  of was in fact one of immense government partnership with big business.

Indeed examples he uses include General Electric which was a government contractor as well as Ford, GE and Wal-mart, who’s entire business models were made possible by government funded infrastructure, which these companies usually directly lobbied for.  What Altner is celebrating here is not a genuine free market but corrupt crony capitalism.  In the case of Wal-mart, to quote Charles Johnson:

Just about every time Wal-mart decides to build a new store, or especially a new distribution center, they turn to local governments to demand that they grab some money out of working folks’ pockets and put it towards building up “business park” infrastructure and highway interchanges, or widening or extending some existing stretch of road to service Wal-mart’s trucking needs, or simply to build a new spur out to service nothing but the distribution center.”  My understanding is that local governments are not above using eminent domain for this purpose. Indeed much of infrastructure that made the enormous sales of Fords and Chevrolets was made possible by eminent domain.  This is not to mention, tariffs, a petty competition stifling regulatory state and intellectual property rights, which also distort the economy in favor of large powerful firms.  All of this is a complete affront to freedom, despite Altner’s assurance that these rise of big business was due to the “element of freedom in this country”.

I think if competition had not been stifled, and big business did not have so many of it’s inputs directly subsidized, the big firms of the twentieth century would not have become the enormous bureaucratic giants they are today and we would all be less dependent on them, which would be a a positive thing and have made the middle class bigger and much wealthier.  With that in mind, I find it tiring that people who are supposedly advocates of freedom, are simply becoming shills for big business and ignoring a great deal of government intervention behalf of big business in the process.  What big business worshipers like Altner are celebrating is corporatism, not freedom.


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