Am I Just Hating on the Successful?

In a recent conversation about the the numerous things that the government does that rig the economy in favor of established business (Licensing, zoning, arbitrary regulations that make starting a business more expensive, intellectual property rights ect.) I was accused of “blaming the successful” for the fact the fact that we do not live in a free economy.  This struck me as a strange criticism, that is worthy of addressing.

It started when I was asked what the government does to benefit firms like Mcdonalds at the expense of would be competitors.  I argued that Mcdonalds is sheltered from competition by the regulatory state.  Opening a restaurant is made artificially expensive by numerous arbitrary health and safety regulations, not to mention licensing and zoning laws.  If anyone could open a restaurant out of their home, (or in any place they already happen to own) and operate it in their spare time many people would. McDonald’s would-be competition is not just existing restaurants, but many that have never been started, due to artificially high over head.  Furthermore the company like Walmart, benefits heavily from tax payer funded infrastructure (not to mention agricultural subsidies.  Furthermore, when you subsidize, things like long distance shipping (which the highway system does) or agricultural inputs, you give firms that make use of them an artificial competitive advantage over ones who don’t.

It was for making these rather non-controversial points that I was slapped with the accusation of blaming the successful.  To be clear I am not blaming successful businesses, but rather government policy for making some individuals/business models artificially more successful than others. This an important distinction.  It is a complete shame that conservatives and the libertarian mainstream are so enamored with big business, that they not only wish to pretend government policies that benefit big business don’t exist, but dismiss anyone who points these policies out as hating the successful.  This strikes me as quite similar to the canard that I referred to in my previous response post on Pat Buchanan, where anyone who shows any concern about poverty or plutocracy is dismissed as being motivated by envy of the rich.

It should not be some sort of ideological taboo, among opponents of expansive government, point out obvious instances of big business benefiting from government intervention.  This is not blaming the business for the policies they benefit from (except in those cases where the firm in question lobbied for that specific policy).  That said, I am forced to acknowledge that for opponents of government intervention in favor of the rich, that to the extent that a firm’s success is due to such intervention, that success is tainted.


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