Romney and Obama Agree: Power Is Good

Under corporatist bipartisanship, the people lose.

So the presidential campaign is shaping up as a contest between a Democrat who says we had a free market from 2001 through 2008 and a Republican who . . . agrees—he says “[w]e are only inches away from ceasing to be a free market economy.” You can’t cease to be something you never were.

Thus Barack Obama claims and Mitt Romney implicitly concedes that the free market 1) has existed and 2) therefore presumably created the housing and financial debacle. This bodes ill for advocates of liberty and voluntary exchange.

Notice what will happen if this framing is widely accepted: Genuinely freed markets won’t make the list of feasible options. That will leave us with mere variations on a statist theme, namely, corporatism. How will voters choose among them? Most of those who abhor “socialism” (however they define it) will rally round Republican corporatism because of the pro-market rhetoric, while most who abhor the cruel “free market” (“Look at the hardship it created!”) will rush to Democratic corporatism because of its anti-market rhetoric.

And the winner will be: Corporatism. (That is, the use of government force primarily to benefit the well-connected business elite.) The loser? The people, who would benefit from freedom and freed markets—markets void of privileges and arbitrary decrees. That’s what maximizes consumer and worker bargaining power and enhances general living standards.

No Fundamental Difference

Does that mean the two contenders are really on the same side? Yes and no. They each want the reins of power. But the stakes are not what they are represented to be, and the differences are not fundamental. At the most fundamental level and despite appearances, Obama the government man and Romney the business man share common ground. Romney says, “Washington has to become an ally of business, not the opposition of business” (as though those were the only alternatives), and Obama would not disagree. Ask Jeffrey Immelt of GE, Jim McNerney of Boeing, and other beneficiaries of the Export-Import Bank. Or ask the principals of Bank of America. Obama would just want government to be the more dominant voice in any dispute.

As Roderick Long wrote in his 2006 Rothbard Memorial Lecture:

We might compare the alliance between government and big business to the alliance between church and state in the Middle Ages. Of course it’s in the interest of both parties to maintain the alliance—but all the same, each side would like to be the dominant partner, so it’s no surprise that the history of such alliances will often look like a history of conflict and antipathy, as each side struggles to get the upper hand. But this struggle must be read against a common background framework of cooperation to maintain the system of control.

Long is on to something important, and people as different as Ron Paul and Ralph Nader get it. At the rhetorical level the differences between the major parties look substantial: One side says it favors a dominant role for the central government (to promote fairness and jobs); the other, a dominant role for “the private sector” (to promote economic growth). This difference in emphasis sometimes matters at the margin. The fuzzy line between “private” and “public” sector may move slightly this way or that, depending on which side is in power. But big changes do not occur when power changes hands. Do you want recent evidence? Look at the central government’s record since 1981. If you want evidence from the more distant past, read Roy A. Childs’s 1971 libertarian classic, “Big Business and the Rise of American Statism.”

Viewing History

Each side of course views recent and distant history through its own self-serving lens. To gain power each must persuade voters that its philosophy differs sharply from the other’s and that the fate of the country—indeed, the world—hangs in the balance.

It all works neatly to the advantage of the permanent regime—the ruling elite, which has elements both inside and outside the formal government apparatus. Signs of the permanent regime can be seen in the presence of high-ranking corporate personnel from Wall Street banks and other firms no matter which party is in power. The revolving door is well greased. This phenomenon is captured in various Venn diagrams illustrating the bipartisan role of corporate leaders in government. (Here are a few.)

Things are not so different from the days of Thomas Hodgskin, the great English libertarian author and editor, who wrote, among other works, The Natural and Artificial Right of Property Contrasted (1832). (See another article about him here.) Hodgskin was one of many classical liberals who understood that one cannot adequately analyze government without employing class analysis. (Others included Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson, J. B. Say, Frédéric Bastiat, Ludwig von Mises, Albert Jay Nock, and Murray Rothbard. Marx didn’t invent class analysis; he inherited it, before mangling it.) Hodgskin wrote:

And this law, founded on oppression, upheld by force and fraud, intended solely to preserve ill-gotten power, or ill-gotten wealth, to maintain the dominion of an aristocracy, and the supremacy of a priesthood, to perpetuate the slavery, ignorance, and poverty of the great body of the people, the political writers of our day, call on all mankind to obey, as the only means of social salvation.

When Obama and Romney argue over whether taxes should be raised on the rich, bear in mind that such disagreements are nothing new among factions of the ruling elite. (Besides, the rich can always find ways around higher rates). No matter which faction wins, the people will lose.

Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman, where this article originally appeared.

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  • Suki||

    If you run two Democrats, a Democrat is sure to win (or something like that) - Ronald Reagan

  • Ken Shultz||

    Romney may not be the capitalist I want him to be, but not being hostile to capitalism by default puts him head and shoulders above Obama.

  • np||

    Obama and the Dems are not opposed to capitalism. In fact as Sheldon pointed out, they love certain capitalists: http://i.imgur.com/PVpFY.jpg

    Maybe the perception and the rhetoric is different, but not much will be different in reality and none at all fundamentally. Yeah, you'll get a lot of "pro-business" talk and that means certain capitalists will get some love, just a different round of capitalists this time.

    But maybe it's good to put Romney in office. You need the SHTF on both sides of the aisle for there to be any meaningful change. We'd likely not have increased taxes which is good. But he has in no way tackled deficit spending. In fact, I bet he's going to increase it, especially by his rhetoric of having a military so powerful "that no one would even think of attacking us" (as he mentioned in one speech). Likely his plan is to promote growth to finance such spending. But it isn't ever going to be enough. It'll have to be done with more money and credit inflation; more promotion of spending, indebtedness as opposed to saving.

  • BigT||

    Those Venn diagrams are interesting. But would you rather have those govt jobs filled by people with no corporate experience, ie academics? Or union or local govt hacks?

    Less govt, not Top Men is what is needed.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    All those circles are the same size, public and private. Surely, you don't want one side to gain an advantage with a bigger circle.

  • Xenocles||

    I would rather have most of those positions not exist, as your last line implies.

  • np||

    To continue, I don't hear anything from Romney about freeing up markets and deregulation, nor lowering or removing the barriers to entry, nor not intervening or protecting favored businesses.

    All I hear is a lot of neomercantalist BS. I bet when things get worse, he'll still keep lower taxes of course, but will institute more capital controls, trade regulations. If certain markets "crash"--aka correct--he'll toe the line with the Fed and and try to inflate our way out of it.

  • wareagle||

    oh please...you are merely supposing things that Romney might do while apparently ignoring what Obama has done and is bent on doing. I would rather have a guy who has actually had some business know-how at the wheel than some guy who thinks it's his job to institute economic justice.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    economic justice

    Yeah. Justice. That's what it is.

  • Pippers||

    You apparently don't even follow Mitts "business know-how" do you?

  • Ken Shultz||

    Maybe the perception and the rhetoric is different, but not much will be different in reality and none at all fundamentally.

    I suspect Romney might not have been much different in action on fundamental questions, like TARP, but I think he would have differed on the implementation.

    For instance, Romney might have pushed to use the "repaid" TARP money to buy back the debt the government floated to pay for TARP.

    Romney might not have used TARP funds to effectively nationalize two-thirds of the American auto industry.

    And there's a difference between someone like Romney doing what he thinks he needs to in an emergency and someone like Obama who sees an emergency as an important opportunity to advance his anti-capitalist ideology.

  • Pippers||

    First, TARP was not for the Auto Industry, it was for the banks. It was set up and designed by Bush.

    Second, the auto industry bail outs were also set up and designed by Bush. Ford was the first company to get a bail out in 2008 under Bush. Followed by Chrysler and GM. The government put one official on the board of directors for GM to oversee that the bail out money was spent properly.

    Where you make this jump that 2/3 of the auto industry is now nationalized is pure stupidity.

    Fucking go read a book and learn something.

  • shrike||

    Most of the posters here regurgitate Fox News talking points. They are trained to say things like "hostile to capitalism" with no evidence. Obama will rack up far more $35,000 a plate donations from business leaders again.

    So he wants to kill the tax subsidies for Oil & Gas? Fine, their business is booming and subsidies are inherently wrong anyway.

    The GOP tends to line of with rent-seekers anyway (mineral extraction, defense) where the pure capitalists (tech, bio, trading) line up with Dems. Larry Fink manages $3.7 trillion (more than anyone) and he is 100% long America and Obama.

  • John||

    Shut the fuck up Shrike. Every word you put on here is a lie including and and the. Take your fucking daily KOS talking points somewhere will someone will listen.

  • John||

    Obama will rack up far more $35,000 a plate donations from business leaders again.

    It is called a shakedown racket you fucking little retard. Legitimate businesses gave the mafia billions. I guess Carlo Gambino was pro business too.

    How do you feed yourself, you so fucking stupid?

  • Ken Shultz||

    I've heard this over and over...

    The picture we have of most lobbyists is completely backwards. We imagine lobbyists creeping through the halls of Congress from office to office with money, trying to entice politicians into voting for the lobbyist's laws...

    When in reality, it's usually some congressional staffer calling up the lobbyist, saying, "I've got a fund raiser scheduled on such and such a date at such and such a time--be there or be one sorry fothermucker".

  • Anonymous Coward||

    When in reality, it's usually some congressional staffer calling up the lobbyist, saying, "I've got a fund raiser scheduled on such and such a date at such and such a time--be there or be one sorry fothermucker".

    Remember kids, there is a difference between tribute and bribery.

  • KPres||

    Actually, what lobbying firms mostly do is research and analysis, and while it's an inherently corrupt occupation, its corruption only offsets the corruption inherent in Democracy, where this magical thing called a "vote" supposedly gives people the right to the product of other people's labor.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Here's a recorded phone call of congressional Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton calling a lobbyist.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCCWo3Bh-xU

    Who's shakin' down whom, Shrike? My ex-girlfriend once got a more nuanced call from a repo man!

    The government's so worried about slapping restrictions on lobbyists giving money to politicians, maybe there needs to be a law protecting lobbyists from aggressive politicians. I wonder, do the politicians call for money in the middle of the night?

    But at $35,000 a plate, I guess Obama's in on the intimidation tactics, too. Don't make him mad! You wouldn't like Obama when he's mad. It might be bad for business.

  • shrike||

    She can't ever vote. That is one stupid lobbyist.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Why is the lobbyist stupid?

    For getting a call on his voice mail?

  • wareagle||

    she may not vote but she CAN influence others and if someone like her is shaking folks down, imagine what the actual vote-holders do. Jeez, dude...

  • Mr. FIFY||

    She's Team Blue... and so is shrike, who is just another money-loving statist/socialist/cocksucker with a jizz-coated picture of George Soros next to his alarm clock.

  • hk||

    You're a dipshit, we're Libertarian not neocons.

    And your Euro-zone friends have fucked themselves with your ideology.

  • Ken Shultz||

    Most of the posters here regurgitate Fox News talking points. They are trained to say things like "hostile to capitalism" with no evidence. Obama will rack up far more $35,000 a plate donations from business leaders again.

    Yeah, because spending $35,000 a plate on political donations is what capitalism is all about!

    Is this a spoofer? Would shrike really say that?

    Can you imagine getting an invitation to such an event? Is that an offer you can refuse?

    It would be like your boss inviting you to her wedding and then telling you where she was registered--but worse.

    How many more times does the Obama Administration have to shake down business leaders before you all start to realize that he isn't hostile to capitalism!

    Seriously?!

    LOL

  • shrike||

    The S&P 500 is up from 803 to over 1400 - the largest gain for any administration ever.

    $35,000 is chickenshit. The GOP sucks for market longs.

  • anon||

    Yeah, the S&P is up. The dollar's purchasing power is also down significantly.

    See how this game works moron?

  • shrike||

    No it isn't. The US Dollar is up over 12% in four years (DXY).

    Earnings are way up. In fact, earnings are higher than ever. You wingnuts need to stay out of market discussions.

  • KPres||

    "Earnings are way up. In fact, earnings are higher than ever."

    Uhhh...of course they are. Earnings are a function of output, which grows over time. The P/E ratios, OTOH, are lower than they have been over past 10-15 years generally.

    You wingnuts need to stay out of market discussions.
    Hmph.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The S&P 500 was up from the crash?

    http://www.google.com/finance?cid=626307

    Gee! Four more years!

    It hit a low of 683 on March of 2009, a few weeks after Obama took office. That's why Obama was able to get his emergency TARP release in February--because the markets were in turmoil.

    It was as high as 1561.80 during the Bush Administration before the crash, which means a couple of things:

    1) The S&P 500 is not necessarily a good indication of how well main street is doing or in what shape the economy is in.

    2) If the S&P 500 were a great indication and made it easy to compare how well presidents were doing, then that jackhole idiot Bush was a better president than Obama since the S&P 500 is still about 12% below where it was under that moron, Dubya.

    Out of curiosity, how are you linking Obama's policies to the performance of the S&P 500? To which of Obama's polices, specifically, are you attributing the partial recovery of the S&P 500?

  • hk||

    The Labor Force Participation rate is the lowest its been in 30 years.

    You lose d-bag. :)

    Also nice job completely debasing our currency with your fiat monopoly money.

  • KPres||

    "The S&P 500 is up from 803 to over 1400 - the largest gain for any administration ever.

    And it only cost taxpayers $5 trillion!

  • anon||

    Larry Fink manages $3.7 trillion (more than anyone) and he is 100% long America and Obama.

    Of -COURSE- he's long Obama, you fucking retard. Obama's been feeding him more cash from managing US assets than he could ever obtain by willing participants.

    Holy fuck, even your logical fallacies are wrong. You're a fucking idiot Shriek.

  • shrike||

    So it wasn't the $1 trillion gain since Jan 2009?

    You are clueless.

  • KPres||

    "The S&P 500 is up from 803 to over 1400...."

    "...So it wasn't the $1 trillion gain since Jan 2009?"

    $1 trillion? So you're saying he hasn't kept up with the S&P? Brilliant guy.

  • Ken Shultz||

    But maybe it's good to put Romney in office. You need the SHTF on both sides of the aisle for there to be any meaningful change.

    Meaningful change won't come from Congress. Anybody waiting for meaningful change to come from Congress and then the American people to follow? Is putting the cart before the horse.

    We change the American people's minds, and then it won't matter which party controls Congress. Just like it doesn't matter so much right now.

    The Obama question is fundamentally different. The problem with Obama is his ideologically rigid bias against capitalism. I think you might be able to vote him out and have a policy outcome four years later that's substantially different from what you would have had otherwise.

    In other words, if what we have now is better than what we would have if Obama were reelected, then what we have now may be head and shoulders above Obama's future policy--even if keeping what we have now doesn't amount to meaningful change.

  • plu1959||

    The thing is, backing standard-issue Republicans as the alternative to Dems only serves to keep moving the center further and further to the left.

  • John||

    The problem is that when the Dems win, they push the agenda really far left. I don't know what we do. People on the left are basically possessed. It doesn't matter how much they fail or how stupid their ideas are, they will never compromise and never quit. So the only way to stop them is to be the same way. But when you do that it is just a matter of time before things get really bad, as in killing each other bad.

    We are doomed.

  • anon||

    It doesn't matter how much they fail or how stupid their ideas are, they will never compromise and never quit.

    Dude

    Their ideas -can't- be stupid. They're highly educated.

    /sic

  • ||

    And the winner will be: Corporatism. (That is, the use of government force primarily to benefit the well-connected business elite.) The loser? The people...

    By backing the Republican's Corporatism, the loser, in the long run is true capitalism. Corporatism will fail as surely as Socialism, and since the left uses Corporatism and Capitalism interchangeably (wrongly), Capitalism will take the hit.

    Accepting the lesser of two evils in this matter, i.e. the Repubs, hurts our cause in the long run. Our best interest's lie in discrediting BOTH Socialism and Corporatism and attempting to explain why Corporatism and Capitalism are NOT synonymous. Props to Sheldon for doing so.

  • John||

    1. Sheldon made a pathetic case that Romney is corporatist.

    2. Corporatist is becoming like Neocon. It is just a piece of invective people throw around without any real meaning.

    3. There is nothing to say that Obama will discredit socialism. Socialism have wildly failed everywhere it has been tried. And the solution has in most places been more socialism. There is an argument that Obama wants to fail and force a crisis so he can get the real power he wants. There is no guarantee this will have a happy ending. It didn't in places like Argentina and Venezuela.

  • ||

    Corporatist is becoming like Neocon. It is just a piece of invective people throw around without any real meaning.

    How can you say that? John, I agree with you 80% of the time, but sometimes you really disappoint me.

    Obtaining wealth by paying off Congressmen to write legislation in your interests, is about as far away from free market principles as you can get.

  • John||

    I know it has a meaning. But we use it too loosely. Yes, a lot of what goes on is corporatist. But not everything we don't like is that.

  • ||

    Sheldon made a pathetic case that Romney is corporatist.

    I don't think that's what he set out to do. I think he was calling Republicans, in general, Corporatists, and that Mittens hasn't taken an active position in disputing that Corporatism is NOT Capitalism. IOW, Romney has taken Obama's bait.

    Whether Romney turns out to be a Corporatist (I suspect he is), remains to be seen.

  • John||

    To me corporatist is just a fancy word for crook. yeah, they all steal when they get a chance.

  • Freedom74||

    Why is that?

    A free market would also be a free market in Politics and violence correct?

    So, whoever pays the most gets their violence from the violence corporation and their political enforcement from the political wing of the same violence corporation.

    Pay to play politics is EXACTLY what a completely free market entails.

    I am a proponent of the free market and lean towards anarcho-capitalism, but the reality is if a political setup exists, paying to get your way is VERY free market.

    You are just mad you can't pay as much to play, so are slinging some mud.

  • T o n y||

    Your cause is not John's cause. He calls Obama a socialist. That is, he does exactly what shrike said he does, regurgitate FOX News talking points and the emotions that go along with them.

  • John||

    Fuck off sock puppet. You are the only one on here that watches Fox News. Since you are obsessed with their "talking points" whatever that means, you must not watch anything else.

  • wareagle||

    so before there was a Fox News, everyone loved socialism? Just how stupid is the American left?

  • T o n y||

    About 100 times less stupid than the American right. You don't know what socialism is except as a bogeyman. To the extent that it's government intervention in the economy, you'd be surprised by how little we probably disagree. To the extent it's an incantation that makes you hide under your bed from the scary monster, well it's about as real as monsters--or the Red Menace in the year 2012.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Ask a North Korean how they feel about life under vicious totalitarian rule, Tony.

    Then ask why you'd want to move any closer to *that* kind of lifestyle.

    Oh, wait... you'd like that. I keep forgetting.

  • T o n y||

    Because I have totally advocated for a North Korea-like system.

  • ||

    That's right - because it's not True Socialism (TM) until the jackboots come occupy your factory and begin churning out the products the state wants. But then, General Motors...

  • ||

    That's right - because it's not True Socialism (TM) until the jackboots come occupy your factory and begin churning out the products the state wants. But then, General Motors...

  • Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow||

    Socialism(n.)-a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

  • Freedom74||

    By "community" it means "government".

    I DO NOT consider the federal government "the community".

    So, what is the difference between socialism and hard core communism?

    How fast the secret police gets hired and the rhetoric used to sell redistribution of wealth.

  • ||

    The photo looks eerily like Bush.

  • Mike M.||

    Stanford Journalism professor Joel Brinkley admits that liberals have once again been played for a bunch of fools by the Islamists.

    It's extraordinarily rare that a leftist ever admits that he was wrong about anything, so I guess this could be a little encouraging. The problem unfortunately is that that never really learn; I mean, we've been through this kind of thing before in history.

  • shrike||

    Because Egypt, Tunisia, and Libya cost us so much blood and treasure? There is no nation-building there. We whacked some thugs and left.

    Do idiots like yourself ever think? Do you remember the Bush Doctrine and the $1 trillion + 4400 US soldiers lost for an Iraqi theocracy?

  • Mike M.||

    Hey dickhead, the article is written by your own ilk, a fellow leftist who believed that the so-called "Arab Spring" was going to be a wonderful thing.

  • John||

    Walk away. Don't feed it. If you ignore it it usually crawls back in its hole.

  • shrike||

    Arab Spring is a political movement (like the Tea Party) and as such is only as good as they make it. I'm neutral but I am glad that Qaddafi is no more. One more thug down at a cost of next to nothing.

    Obama's foreign policy is excellent. And he is deftly handling that asshole Bibi while they try to gin up another ground war for us. They need the GOP to get us into that.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Obama's foreign policy is excellent.

    Yes, antagonizing the Chinese at every opportunity is BRILLIANT!

  • hk||

    The tripling down of our troops in Afghanistan was hardly brilliant.

    Killing thousands of innocent people in a war, to prop up terrorists is not good, mindless drone attacks that usurp the constitution, Gitmo, etc.

    He's a real neocon.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I was being sarcastic.

  • hk||

    I responded to the wrong person.

    Lol. Yeah nice job though.

  • John||

    No, you are just glad your team got to get its war on and bomb a bunch of brown people. You never gave a shit about Libya and don't care that Obama turned into Somalia on the Med.

    Go take a fucking gas pipe you nasty little fuck.

  • hk||

    You are a psycho, the Arab Spring does cost us treasure and it is called propping up terrorists with weapons.

    By the way Arab Spring is about pure anarchy, so you better be right when you start a civil war. Fucking coward.

  • hk||

    Look at what anarchy does to countries in Africa you piece of trash.

  • tarran||

    In defense of anarchy, the quality of life did improve in Somalia during the interregnum. Infant mortality went down, life expectancy went up, per capita GDP went up. IIRC the only measure that went down was the literacy rate, which kind of makes sense when people are so dirt poor. Learning to read makes little sense when you are living in a society where you are on the ragged end of starvation and most methods of earning a living don't require an ability to read or write.

    But yes, they went from being in an abysmally bad society to one that was less abysmally bad.

  • John||

    That is not a defense of anarchy as much as an indictment of international aid. Aid really did a number on Somalia and when it stopped, things got better

  • hk||

    Ah right the anarchist-capitalist position.

    I respect all Libertarians but I think you're wrong when it comes to anarchy, that's why I'm a minarchist.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Your Team got talked into Iraq, shrike. Own it for what it's worth.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • Mike M.||

    The sad part is that some libertarians who really should have been smart enough to know better fell for all this crap early on too.

  • tarran||

    ?

  • hk||

    That really was an excellent article Mike. Much obliged.

    : ]

  • ||

    The founders did not include term limits in the constitution, a serious mistake. We now have a political class every bit as oppressive, exploitive, and entrenched as the european aristocracy ever was.

  • tarran||

    I think even with term limits we would have an entrenched political class. They would, however, spend more of their careers in the civil service in positions where they were appointed.

  • ||

    Their shortcoming was believing the constituents would put the good of the nation over the bribes brought home by their Congressmen.

    I agree. Term limits would be a step in the right direction.

  • Ken Shultz||

    The fuzzy line between “private” and “public” sector may move slightly this way or that, depending on which side is in power. But big changes do not occur when power changes hands.

    The question isn't just whether we want things to get better; it's also whether we want things to get worse.

    The risk isn't just that Romney might want the status quo; the risk is also that Obama might want to go even further to the left.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    “Washington has to become an ally of business, not the opposition of business”

    That rhetoric is correct. But how to act the ally? Maintaining an environment where innovation and industry thrive and, just as importantly, lack thereof fail, is how you do that effectively. Washington can't do that.

  • John||

    Washington has to become an ally of business, not the opposition of business” (as though those were the only alternatives),

    I am not saying Romney isn't a corporatist. But that is a pretty sorry effort at proving that he is. That statement could mean a lot of things. If this is the best evidence Reason can come up with, maybe Romney isn't so bad. Or maybe the writer of this article did a pretty shitty job.

  • tarran||

    That is awesome!

  • Fatty Bolger||

    The author just seems to assume that it's true. Quite possibly he's correct, but I would like to see a little more effort made to make the point.

  • John||

    Comment of the day on NY Post concerning the Secret Service hooker scandal.

    The presidents press secretary was heard to say......As per protocol, the president does not comment on any issues until he learns the race and skin color of all involved.

  • ||

    So how do we kill this beast?

    We have a corptocracy with this amalgam of a federal republic and large corporations. But this beast is unprecedented in the sense of its global reach, and the power and control that it can exert.

    What is going to suck for the next few months is the having to listen to the argument that there is any meaningful difference between these candidates. What is at stake is the shuffling around of which corporations will reap the nepotistic sort of benefits of having the inside tracks to the reigns of control. But there isn't a candidate out the that is going to upset the gravy train.

  • John||

    There is some difference. I doubt Romney would pull something like Fast and Furious or do the kind of outrigh race bating that Obama engages in.

    Romney would be better. But it is doubtful he would be good enough to solve anything. And his being in office would just be used by liberals as a way to discredit small government.

    Obama is worse than any President since Nixon. And maybe worse than Nixon. Nixon was at least competent at a few things. The question is, is it better to re-elect him and let him finally totally discredit liberalism or elect Romney and try to limit some of the damage.

  • tarran||

    I don't know...

    Certainly Romney has much better judgement that Obama - whose petulance leads him to make dumb decision after dumb decision.

    However, when I look at all the bad shit going down, even back to Bush I, I see an increasingly powerful and unaccountable civil service being behind most of the destructive government policies.

    To me, the major determinant of what would make a good president is his ability to overrule, tame and break the civil service to his will (assuming he wants to use his will for good and not evil).

    By that criteria, Romney is terribly lacking. Like Sir Humphreys manipulating Hackett to make decisions that benefit Sir Humphreys, I think the civil service will pander to his technocratic impulses (instead of Obama's classism & racism as I suspect they do now) and business will continue as usual.

    Could Romney be better than Obama? possibly. He could hardly be worse. But if my reading of the situation is correct, he won't really be much better.

  • John||

    By that criteria a lot of them are lacking. The bureaucracy is so large. I don't know a President tames it. That will take Congress. The only way to stop them is to take their money. That is the only thing they understand.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    The question is, is it better to re-elect him and let him finally totally discredit liberalism

    Discredit Liberalism for whom? You'll never convince the True Believers that their ideology is based upon fallacy after fallacy. Like any zealot, they'd rather the whole edifice burn down around them than have a crisis of faith.

  • tarran||

    Perhaps my views are affected by living in MA, but there are a lot of people running around thinking the 2000's were a decade of laissez faire excess.

    After two terms of Obama, it will become increasingly difficult to blame problems on Goldstein Bush II.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Well, you need to cross the border and come up here to NH!

    I believe you are underestimating the power of cognitive dissonance. Yes, that rara avis, the true Independent might be convinced that Obama's "Social Democracy with American Characteristics " is a ruinous mess, the Kool-Aid drinkers of the Hope 'n Change tent revival have too much of their ego-identity invested in the movement. To reject that, they would have to craft a whole new persona, which is inherently frightening and disorientating. No, it's better to put on the jumpsuit, drink the poison, and wait to hitchhike on the next passing comet.

  • Fatty Bolger||

    They won't reject it, but I somehow doubt they will be showing up en masse at the polling booths this fall.

  • Len Bias||

    "The question is, is it better to re-elect him and let him finally totally discredit liberalism or elect Romney and try to limit some of the damage."

    No matter how bad it gets under Obama, it will not discredit liberalism. He is still largely portrayed as being pro-free market. If he is a failure by the end of his second term, it will be because he did not move far enough to the left, or that even one as smart as him could not undo the damage caused by eight years of free markets under Bush, or he was hindered by the GOP. As long as there is even a hint of a free market under a given system, the free market will be blamed. Remember, our health care system now is referred to as a free market failure.

  • Len Bias||

    "The question is, is it better to re-elect him and let him finally totally discredit liberalism or elect Romney and try to limit some of the damage."

    No matter how bad it gets under Obama, it will not discredit liberalism. He is still largely portrayed as being pro-free market. If he is a failure by the end of his second term, it will be because he did not move far enough to the left, or that even one as smart as him could not undo the damage caused by eight years of free markets under Bush, or he was hindered by the GOP. As long as there is even a hint of a free market under a given system, the free market will be blamed. Remember, our health care system now is referred to as a free market failure.

  • tarran||

    The gravy train will become upset when people start withdrawing consent.

    My guess will be that at some point the government will run out of people willing to loan it money at low interest rates. And then it will be headless-chicken time.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm not hoping for a devalued currency. I'm hoping we'll come to our senses before it comes to that.

    Until the Europeans get their currency under control, people will still want to hold dollar denominated assets. How long that demand will continue is anybody's guess, but given what we know today, it should last at least as long as Europe's problems.

    There's actually a very good argument for borrowing at such low rates in the short term. But we should be using those low rates as an opportunity to restructure. For the cost of the Iraq War and ObamaCare, we could have financed a restructuring of our entitlement programs.

    That was a blown opportunity. In the end, we will get our budget under control, just like the Greeks will. The question is just whether we're going to do it on our own terms or on whatever terms the markets will give us once we're in the same position as the Greeks.

    I hope it doesn't come to that.

  • wareagle||

    counting on Europe is a fool's errand. France has a couple of candidates battling to see who can be the most leftist. One is calling for 75% tax rates on the rich, another for 100%. And people are stupid enough to think those are good ideas because Sarkozy had the audacity to bump the retirement age forward a couple of years.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I don't think you got what I was saying.

    I'm not saying the dollar is better off so long as Europe does what it's supposed to; I'm saying that the dollar will be better off so long as they keep screwing themselves up.

    The dollar is stronger becasue people don't trust the Euro. Instead of buying bonds denominated in Euros, they're buying bonds denominated in US dollars. That will continue so long as Europe is screwed up fiscally, as the auctions last week showed, and so long as that continues, the US dollar should benefit from that.

    As screwed up as we are, we aren't as screwed up as they are. It isn't just our fiscal situation that influences the value of the dollar; it's also the fiscal situation of other currencies.

    How long that will continue is anyone's guess, but that's the way it is now, and that's the way it's going to be until something changes.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'm not saying the dollar is better off so long as Europe does what it's supposed to; I'm saying that the dollar will be better off so long as they keep screwing themselves up.

    I mean, if there's anything we can count on from the Eurozone countries for the time being? It's that they're fiscal problems will continue.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I mean, if there's anything we can count on from the Eurozone countries for the time being? It's that they're fiscal problems will continue.

    I's has the minors in gramma!

  • Winston Smith||

    The US $ is nearly finished as a reserve
    currency.The Euro is on its last legs.
    The BRIC's are going ahead with their own currency.
    The BRIC's have an emergency meeting next month to finalize details.
    Plan accordingly.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I'd take that threat with a grain of salt.

    For one thing, it's hard to be a reserve currency when there's a lot of political instability. And I'm not sure which of those BRIC countries can be considered sufficiently stable. ...not even China.

    The other thing is that the most important BRIC country (and let's face it, the others don't present a threat without China) is holding, what, some $3 trillion US in foreign exchange reserves?

    Why would China want to do anything to threaten the value of those reserves? They'd be shooting themselves in the foot.

    I know that just because something is stupid doesn't mean a politician won't try to do it, but they've got 3 trillion compelling reasons not to do anything stupid.

  • anon||

    Dude. Everyone knows Obamney has Romney's hair. Get with the program.

  • T o n y||

    Dear Jesus fuck John you didn't wait an HOUR after Santorum dropped out before going full into Romney cheerleading mode... after months of hating on him and assuring us all you'd never vote for him.

  • John||

    No one is cheerleading Romney dipshit. We are only talking about how horrible Obama is. Do us all a favor and go away. The adults are talking.

  • John||

    I know you are a sock puppet. But it really is astounding what a lying worthless piece of shit sock puppet you are. You don't even try to read the posts or pay attention. You just lie and scream whatever fucking talking points the sock puppet masters have sent you out with that day.

    I know the real Tony was killed by a trick years ago. But even he was not as bad as the sock puppet Tony.

  • T o n y||

    All you do--indeed all you seem to know to do--is repeat Republican party talking points as filtered through the jowls of fat white men on FOX news, talk radio, or wherever the fuck you get them from. You have offered up defenses of government on these boards that almost exactly mirror my own. If I am a troll or sockpuppet, you are at least equally so, just for the other team. Something, for some reason, more acceptable in these parts that being a good old fashioned liberal. That the regulars don't try to drive you off with equal fervor is a useful bit of information though. It says that the core of libertarianism isn't saving government money or making government do fewer things, it's a system of absolute moral obsession over poor people possibly getting something they don't deserve.

    And come up with your own insults. Stealing 'sockpuppet' and pretending you're being clever is amusing for the irony, but getting red-faced and calling names because someone points out your ignorant partisan hypocrisy is not, as you claim, being "adult."

  • KPres||

    "It says that the core of libertarianism isn't saving government money or making government do fewer things, it's a system of absolute moral obsession over poor people possibly getting something they don't deserve."

    HA!

    Well, that's always going to be the biggest threat in a Democracy. 70% of government expenditures is wealth redistribution. The next biggest expense is the military. Beyond that, we have 500,000 drug users in jail for crimes that harmed no one.

    Sounds dead on to me that those should be the three primary issues we focus on. What's telling is that you find something disingenuous in all that.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    It would be so much nicer if Tony spaced out his postings over a longer period... say, once per decade.

    I'm being charitable here.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    We do need to get rid of the Republicans who are essentially Democrats, but what I fail to understand is why people keep expecting this to happen soon. It took the illiberal Left most of a century to effectively capture the political process. Even if you accept that their trashing of Nixon was their high water mark (for which I think an argument could be made), the counter-current has only really been running for thirty years or so. It takes TIME to move things in a democratic society.

    Time was when Richard Nixon was considered conservative (which is absurd), and Nelson Rockefeller was a "moderate" Republican. The argument has shifted. It will shift more, unless we get so impatient that we blow it.

  • DJF||

    “””’When Obama and Romney argue over whether taxes should be raised on the rich, bear in mind that such disagreements are nothing new among factions of the ruling elite. (Besides, the rich can always find ways around higher rates). No matter which faction wins, the people will lose.””’

    If we don’t raise taxes on the rich we won’t have the money to bailout and subsidize the favored rich.

  • fearsomepirate||

    Look, I'm not a huge fan of Romney, but the "free market" is an ideal no one has ever perfectly reached, so there is some matter of subjective judgment to say whether or not you're far enough from the ideal to still count as a "free market economy."

    The second thing is that regardless of what you think about Romney, you've gotta admit he understands balance sheets. Obama thinks about money the way a four-year-old does. I'm not very hopeful, but I think Romney is *far* more likely to take the government's spending problem seriously.

    Because as long as you're solvent, you still have a chance to fix things.

  • shrike||

    Romney has indicated he will blow up the US balance sheet. He has said he will overturn the defense cuts in last summer's Budget Act and will kill the $500 billion in Medicare provider cut while cutting taxes and expanding the deficits well past Bush 43 highs.

  • tarran||

    OK, that gets him to number two. Will he go for number one and try to outspend Obama as well?

  • Mr. FIFY||

    You'll make shrike cry if you keep picking on Obama like that, you vicious racist bastard.

  • Jerryskids||

    I think you all missed the joke:

    Sheldon Richman is editor of The Freeman, where this article originally appeared.

    The joke is that he wrote this article 25 years ago. He only changed the names to make it look new.

    And please don't tell me Romney has any campaign platform other than "At Least I'm Not Obama". And he's lying about that.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Obama v. Romney = sticking left hand in deep-fryer v. sticking right hand in running garbage disposal.

  • Pippers||

    He does, it's called saying yes to anyone who votes for me.

  • ReformRealist||

    I do think Romney could very well(it sure sounds like it at least) pursue a more hawkish foreign policy than Obama, which is kind of scary. A War with Iran(not saying it can't happen under Obama) is about the last thing the US and the World needs right now.

  • Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow||

    Roger Gary 2012

    http://rvgary2012.com/

  • Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow||

    Socialism(n.)-a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.

  • Alex the wolf||

    This article is a disaster. It makes me think that Im reading a leftist paper. T claim that Romney and Obama are the same is nonsense. Romney clearly said that he opposes raising taxes, has spoken harshly against the communist NLRB and against unions, particularly public employees unions which always get raises even when the private sector is doing so bad. Of course you will find in his record things that you dislike, but if you really listen to his speech is very different to that of Obama, who has blamed atms for unemployment!

  • Carlsbadip||

    Steve Chapman and you can head up stay the course table in NC in September. Are there any Libertarians that actually write fort this magazine.

  • Mac||

    If only this were true: http://content.usatoday.com/co.....4wphulSRiA

    Instead of this: http://online.wsj.com/article/.....56628.html

    In the NYRB not too long ago, Mark Lilla said that we have to work with the "nation we have, not the nation we wish for," but surely we can do better than this???

  • Dr. Thaddeus Tingleberry||

    It has been said that progressives fetishize {or reify} 'the state' and that capitalists, for better or worse, fetishize the 'free market.'

    Notwithstanding the ins and outs of these claims, it may be noted that Suki, the first poster, supra, fetishizes fetishes themselves.

    If I discern the logical nougat center of the matter, it may be that the disagreement between the parties is engendered by a poor digestion, and an over-suffluence of bile.

    I offer this, humbly, being averse to the sustenance of those portents which subscribe maladies to the spirits of Men.

    - TPT

  • Thomas||

    It seriously makes me sick every time I hear Obama speak of his "support" for the free market. Either he has no idea what the free market actually is, or he thinks the general American population doesn't know what it means. Either way, it's sad.

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