What is the Proper Republocrat Response to Concentrated Corporate Power?*


Naked Capitalism's Yves Smith sighs dramatically, puts the heel of her hand to her furrowed brow, and, more in sorrow than in anger, asks:

A question for readers: in many lines of commerce, large firms often enjoy significant cost and/or revenue advantages relative to smaller players. Over time, these industries tend to evolve to a format where many of the most successful enterprises are very large organizations. These firms typically wield considerable power relative to players smaller than they are, such as employees, suppliers, and customers, and often seek to influence governments. Moreover, many fields of enterprise have considerable barriers to entry, which further entrenches the position of powerful incumbents.

How do libertarians propose to respond to the power of large enterprises?

There is a pretty standard libertoid response to this old chestnut, which one commenter in a sea of anti-lib hate hits on: When you can find a monopoly that exists without the support of the government, ask me then. I'd add that the biggest monopolies—on mail delivery; air, sea and land traffic control; education; use of public (and in many cases private) space; gambling; lotteries; and marriage licenses, to name a few—are not just in cahoots with the government but are actual government entities.

We need to get serious about creating a cabinet-level Department of Sprockets.

But I have been pretty creeped out lately to realize how hard it is to live Google-free, so I'll bite. In cases where actual market capture occurs with no use of the state's monopoly on violence, this libertarian's response is: Wait a couple years. I don't think anybody who remembers Janet Reno's battle to free us from slavery to Microsoft can still take the pure-market monopoly argument seriously now that the Explorer browser, the Windows OS and maybe the personal computer itself are all on a one-way trip to Ye Olde Museum of Technologies Past. Sadly for political economists, babies continue to be born, and they continue to grow up and invent things that make one year's corporate villain into next year's market victim (who then pleads for help from the government).

Smith's query is an example of the liberductio ad absurdum. A Democrat complains about a long wait at the DMV and we all say, "Man, that really sucks." A Republican gets hassled by an officious cop and we say, "I feel you, bro." A libertarian calls the fire department because his house is burning down and a dozen popinjays come out of the woodwork to say, "Ha! See? You really don't want to live in your utopian fantasy of total freedom!"

So I'll rephrase the question: What is the Republican or Democrat response to monopoly power, given that Republicans and Democrats have created 100 percent of the monopolies and libertarians (let alone Libertarians) have created zero?

* Just kidding! We already know the answer. The Republocrat response to corporate power—as was most recently demonstrated in terms a child could understand with the financial, automotive, and health insurance industries—is to coddle, subsidize, rescue, and bail out the most powerful players at taxpayer expense, and then attempt (with mixed success) to control them.