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Just A Note Or Two From Your Resident Skeptic of Capitalism

First, a more methodological point concerning skepticism of contemporary capitalism and the power exercised by its characteristic entities, courtesy of Stratfor's analysis of the Chinese acquisition of a $5 billion stake in Morgan Stanley:

The purchase of $5 billion stake in Morgan Stanley by China's new sovereign fund, the China Investment Corp., was announced Dec. 19. This is the third strategic linkup with an influential U.S. financial major in exchange for an infusion of Chinese cash and mainland business opportunities. The U.S. Congress typically kicks up a fuss each time a Chinese or other foreign company bids for a strategic U.S. asset, but so far not for U.S. banks. Since financial services companies wield significant economic and geopolitical power,(emphasis mine) it probably is only a matter of time before Congress speaks up about such purchases.

The analysis continues by detailing the previous actions of the Chinese Investment Corporation, China's sovereign wealth fund, noting that such funds are availing themselves of the opportunities presented by the subprime mortgage crisis, and the political inability of the U.S. government to bailout each institutions staggering beneath the burden of so much worthless mortgage paper. Furthermore,

...the U.S. banking lobby has a very sophisticated and successful lobbying presence in Washington. It is active in Congress and with regulatory agencies such as the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., where it works to reduce regulatory burdens for the U.S. finance industry. The lobby's influence is clearly seen in the shaping of the federal government response to rising foreclosures on subprime mortgages.

Ultimately, however, U.S. oil and financial services companies both wield significant economic and geopolitical power.(emphasis mine) So it is only a matter of time, most likely within the next year, before Congress picks up the theme of these huge foreign acquisitions in America's most successful finance players.

There are, of course, entirely legitimate reasons for skepticism concerning these moves on the part of an entity controlled by the Chinese regime. My point is the related one that if indeed there are grounds for concern, rooted in the fact that the Chinese government could be acquiring the means to exercise influence over American corporate institutions, this is worrisome precisely because such institutions already exercise significant political power, and already figure prominently in American geopolitical strategy. As such, there is not merely a threat - albeit one as yet at a great distance, smaller than the compass of a man's hand - to American sovereignty, but a modification of what was already a diminution of actual small-r republican, deliberative self-governance, for what it means to state that such institutions exercise significant political power is simply that they influence policy through the (corrupt) lobbying process, and through administrative and fiduciary (read: Federal Reserve) channels. Which is to say, through means other than the representative ones of a self-governing society. Policies of incalculable import to the ordering of our common good are set less by those who ostensibly represent us acting in our name, than by the interests of concentrated wealth; and wealth, or money, being speech - according to a body of legal precedents - it follows that those possessed of more money speak more liberally, and find their interests more fully secured.

And it's not me saying this; it's an outfit the accuracy of which influential people rely upon for decisionmaking purposes.

The second point concerns the fulminant rhetoric unleashed by the Republican establishment against Huckabee, as well as some of the critiques thereof. Ross Douthat writes in response to George Will's unhinged column on Huckabee, that:

Huckabee explicitly says, while criticizing outsourcing and skyrocketing CEO pay, that "I'm not expecting government to fix it"; rather, he seems to be making the moral point that America's corporate entities should recognize obligations to their employees and communities as well as to their shareholders and bottom lines. This strikes me as a perfectly reasonable way for conservative politicians to address the thorny issue of corporate excess - by scolding, rather than regulating. Will obviously disagrees, which is fair enough. But to suggest that criticizing specific instances of corporate behavior, while disavowing regulation of corporate conduct, is the same as questioning the legitimacy of America's corporations - or the "market system" as a whole - is just ridiculous, and unworthy of a writer of Will's intelligence.

Will's rhetoric is intemperate, and stands as illustrative of that tiresome tendency among some conservatives to perceive in any questioning of the status quo on trade and economics a threat to the entire system, a promise of some sort of statist, dystopian nightmare. Clearly, however, there is something odd about the Huckabee/Douthat position on the proper conservative response to corporations and executives who shirk or evade their obligations to their communities, their countrymen, and the common good. If, after all, any obligations attach to corporate policies, obligations, say, to regard preferentially Americans and American communities, as opposed to the utilitarian measurements of stock valuation and "shareholder value", then, by the nature of the case - involving as it does momentous questions of the common good, of the fundamental ordering of our society, and the nature of our existence as a people, the types of lives we will lead - those obligations are qualitatively different from trivial 'obligations', such as the obligation, say, to bathe regularly so as not to cause offense by one's malodorous effusions. That is, the obligations are such as to implicate questions of ethics and justice, and are therefore, by nature, legitimate objects of the deliberations and policies of a self-governing people. Whereas a failure to bathe is rightly an object of scorn and shaming, and not legal sanction.

The incandescent rhetoric of Will, however, affords the careful observer a window on th soul of the GOP: to suggest that corporations and executives who disregard their obligations ought to be scolded by political figures, but not even regulated, enjoined to fulfill their obligations as their society comprehends them, is to transgress. All the faithful must fall to their knees in unquestioning allegiance - the submission of faith. Onward and upward. The Rising tide. Pangloss with an economic doctrine, positivist of course, and some math. And this faith manifestly preaches the cheap grace, the easy redemption so characteristic of American religion, insofar as, according to its dogmas, one can fail to fulfill ones duties and skate by with a mere scolding; you can do injustice, which is what it is to shirk an obligation, and all we will do is mutter a few words about how sad it all is. It is as if the corporate establishment says, "Here I stand, and by Mammon, I can do no other!", and the only response we consider licit is, "There, there, you really ought not have done it, and we hope you won't do it again, but it's OK, we understand."

If there exists a common good, offenses against it must be subject to discipline, and not mere talking; otherwise, we belie our own affirmations, denying in deed what we nominally affirm in word. But at least this process tells us where our treasure lies.

Comments (18)



All true in general, but as far Huck is concerned, he got his foreign policy experience from his dealing with Alabama.
One has to question a person whose foreign policy guru is Tommy "The Flatbrain" Friedman.

He is an OpenBorderista who currently reuses Mike Pence touch-back scham. One has to be an iqnoramous or an idiot to believe that Huck became tough on illegal immigration.
Sadly, it appears that most Repubs fall into one of those two categories.

One has to be an ignoramus or an idiot to believe that Huck became tough on illegal immigration.

That seems a bit harsh. One may also simply note that politicians are subject to the pressure of public opinion; and that, on immigration in particular, a politician who gives evidence of bending to popular pressure, is already a politician superior to our current Chief Executive.

With Tancredo out, Fred Thompson is the best candidate left on immigration. Yet Tancredo endorsed Romney. Why? Well, Romney, even more than Huck, has shown his willingness to bend to popular opinion, and Tancredo may have judged it highly unlikely that, having courted immigration hawks, Romney will turn around and bite the hand that fed him once in office. (Tancredo may also be considering all the cash Romney commands, in light of the former's possible Senate bid.)

These sorts of calculations are what primaries are all about.

The wealthy and powerful always exercise disproportionate influence over the activities of government. Always, always, always. Always have, always will. And, in the long run, there is no hope of preventing this.

The wealthy and powerful are, after all, wealthy and powerful. And they, like the poor, are always with us.

So if you don't like the sort of influence that they are likely to exercise, you really have only one recourse: strictly to limit the powers of government.

Unfortunately, you seem to advocate precisely the opposite policy: i.e., expanding the powers of government over corporate behavior - apparently in the hope that people who agree with you about how corporations ought to behave will end up pulling the strings.

But that is most unwise. Create such powers, and people who agree with you will be among the last in the long line of those seeking to exercise them. First in line, naturally, will be the corporations themselves - and not the best of the corporations, either.

I set aside your incandescent rhetoric (shall we say) about "the soul of the GOP," the "submission of faith," "cheap grace," "Mammon," and all that. It simply does not signify here.

Of course the wealthy typically exercise disproportionate influence over the policies of government, though this can be limited by restraining the powers of government. However, the question here is complex, since it seems to assume that the wealthy possess a given, known character, when the substantive issue here is the nature of the elite, the qualities of that character and the practices in which that character is expressed. Since one of the substantive issues that engendered this discussion was that of outsourcing, the issue may be framed, specifically, as that of the allegiances of the elites. I take it as axiomatic that such economic elites possess obligations to their communities as such, obligations which are neither expressible as, nor reducible to, obligations toward maximal profitability, shareholder value, or - as current libertarian tropes would have it - towards humanity in general. That is, there are persons and communities toward whom, by virtue of propinquity, history, a variety of forms of association, and so forth, elites are obligated; the set of such persons is delimited and/or conditioned by political and social boundaries; and there obtains no calculus according to which one might both maximize profitability or well-being as defined by some utilitarian measure, and discharge those ethical obligations. There may or may not be an invisible hand, but if there is, it is not moral.

The question, therefore, is simply that of the loyalty of an economic elite to the communities, and the nation, of which they are a part. I fail to perceive how the proscription of such economic practices constitutes a massive augmentation of the powers of government, unless we are presupposing that what can be performed by business must or will be performed, regardless of the normative status of the actions or the externalities, and that economy is not political economy - that economic practices are not constituted by law, whether tacit and cultural, or positive, and thus always political at some level. Beyond a rudimentary level of trucking and bartering, I find this implausible. In other words, the question is never one of whether politics and economics will interact, but is rather one of how they will interact.

That said, I freely confess that I possess no comprehensive proposal for the rectification of the imbalances or injustices that I perceive. All the same, much of the political theory of the American system presupposes precisely that the power of elites can at least be constrained, its growth limited; it was not without reason that many of the Founders opposed Hamilton's scheme for a mercantile republic with a strong, guiding central government. Such governments can both create entrenched elites and be created by them, as economic concentration always begets political centralization as the means of its perpetuation or reproduction. Hence, to the objection that these things must always be so, I can only reply that if this be a verisimilitude, than we ought to own honestly that much political theory - classical republicanism, agrarianism, most democratic theory, much of the theory of the Federalist - is a load of sentimental, romantic piffle, and that oligarchy and plutocracy, whether overt or subtle, must be our destiny. If one wishes to argue for such a fatalism, so be it; but let there be no attempts to sanctify the thing with a moral chrism, for if it is more or less necessary, it makes little sense to proclaim it moral.

As regards what is signified by the 'incandescent rhetoric', it seems obvious to me that if one is going to announce an obligation, but not enforce its observance by anything more substantial than a talking-to, then one is dispensing cheap grace: we won't attempt to prevent you from failing to perform your obligations; we'll just tell you how naughty you are when you do fail. It's rather onanistic. And everyone who follows American politics is cognizant of the fact that a globalist sort of free trade is the Republican orthodoxy; even minor deviations are reprobated, and this is nothing more than a secular assertion that one ought to repress one's reservations and assent to the dominant orthodoxy. Those who dissent are advised to submit their independent judgment to the custodians of the system of thought, which, of course, is not presented as a system of thought per se, but as a positive science, a transcription of what is Really Real. Whatever. Mammon? The justification of these policies and practices is simply that they maximize aggregate, systemic utility, and the measurements of this function are GDP and its variables and derivatives. In the case at hand, outsourcing, corporations pursue it precisely because it is international arbitrage for labour. It's about the money. Finally, as regards the soul of the GOP, well, if recent years have not evidenced a greater commitment on the part of the GOP to neoliberal economic orthodoxy than to the concerns of social conservatives, even some fiscal conservatives, then it is not possible for any combination of policy statements and legislative agendas to do so. Hell, I'd never, not in a million years, vote for Huckabee, a compassionate conservative with a theological edge, but the conservative and GOP establishments have been virtually uniform in their denunciations of his trivial - the man asseverates that Thomas Friedman is one of his principal sources for the understanding of economic and foreign affairs - deviations on economic doctrine, despite the affinity of the most substantial segment of the party base for him. Perhaps that is not indicative of the soul of the GOP, but it is at least indicative of the spirit of the party.

One has to be an ignoramus or an idiot to believe that Huck became tough on illegal immigration.

That seems a bit harsh. One may also simply note that politicians are subject to the pressure of public opinion; and that, on immigration in particular, a politician who gives evidence of bending to popular pressure, is already a politician superior to our current Chief Executive.

True enough. And all current Repub candidates for Prez, except Guliani and McCain, are superior to Jorge Boosh.

However Huck feels pressure on immigration issue and decides to pick a fraudulent plan by Mike Pence. Now, Huck seems to be intelligent enough to understand that Pence plan is a sham.

The fact that he knowingly propose a sham is worse then if he would still display ignorance of immigration issue.

As it is he knows that immigration is a big issue and picks a sham to cover up an effective amnesty.

That is worse than Romney reputation: when he is bought, he stays bought.
So if Romney makes reasonable noises about immigration we might expect that he will do something along those noises while in office.

So if you don't like the sort of influence that they are likely to exercise, you really have only one recourse: strictly to limit the powers of government.

If only it were that simple. One aspect of the powers of government is regulating the creation and enforcement of contracts, the creation and sustainance of legal entities like corporations in all their detailed characteristics, the creation and sustainance of instruments for exchanging property interests, etc. Don't mistake me: these things (or things like them) are necessary, and I don't begrudge their mere existence any more than I begrudge the mere existence of the poor and the wealthy. But Maximos' incandescent point about their inherently moral character - and the inherently moral character of the relation of the elites to country and kin - is well taken. Limiting the power of King John is a good thing to do: certainly his powers must not be seen as plenipotentiary, for that is mere tyranny. But replacing the tyranny of the King with a different and more anarchic but just as pure tyranny of the Barons is probably a bad trade.

Yes, we will forever be ruled by an aristocracy. This is the nature of things. But the character of our aristocracy matters. In the first instance that our aristocratic ruling elite exists and that its moral character matters is something warranting talk, since as a people we are in denial of this basic fact. But I perceive no principle by which it makes any sense to limit (or attempt to limit) ourselves to a toothless checks-and-balances of mere scolding.

As usual, I find myself far more siding with Steve's attitude to this whole subject. But I'm full of goodwill towards men at the moment, our power having just come on after being out since the dark, wee hours of morning from a windstorm, with windchills taking the perceived temperature down to zero, and I have a cup of my own good coffee warming me up nicely, and I'm heading into Christmas, so I'll just content myself with wishing y'all a Capitalist Merry Christmas, rather than arguing. :-) :-)

Well, Lydia, what can I say to that, except:

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night...

...and I'LL BE BACK.

So if you don't like the sort of influence that they are likely to exercise, you really have only one recourse: strictly to limit the powers of government.

What if elites decide to exercise powers independently, via their own gangs/militias/political parties?

Devil is in the details, the statement above is so general as to be virtually useless.

What powers to limit and what not to limit?

Iraq has or had till recently very limited government, was life OK over there?

Russia had extremely limited goverment from 1991-1999. There are plenty of evidence that that setup was deeply unsatisfactory.

Current subprime mortgage crisis is a big deal. There are two reasons for that, lack of regulation for mortgage initiators and pressure put on lenders to increase lending to underperforming minorities.

Solution proposed is to increase regulations, increase gov intrusion into biz.
No solutions mentioned to remove racial divercity pressure applied to lenders.

One of the reasons it is not mentioned is deteoration in small government proponents thinking and arguments.

"No solutions mentioned to remove racial divercity pressure applied to lenders."

While this raises the danger of speaking for Steve, I don't think I'd be going far out on a limb if I said that I'm sure Steve heartily opposes diversity pressure on lenders! I certainly do. Libertarians and even partial libertarian sympathizers are no friends of the whole diversity cottage industry and its regulatory burden.

I could swear that I heard all this, and in the same tone, back in the seventies and eighties regarding Japan. That was when Rockerfeller Center took on the iconic identity of the Statue of Liberty. So whereas I may not have to stifle a yawn neither is sweat breaking out on my brow.

We may waltz as much as we wish on this but when the music stops and the verbiage cools you are left with one alternative, government. And if perchance you must worry about an economic aristocracy, and it seems a necessity for a few although I note alternatives are in short supply, you might pause and regard the morals and principles of those statesmen most interested in shielding us from the vagaries of markets, national and international.

This admittedly complicates matters, who wants indignation reined in or skepticism thwarted when one has focused on a fat target. But for me, I would rather take a chance on pulling a drunk out of a pool hall for managerial purposes then trust those ersatz and overly ambitious, would be Guardians of our lives, and wallets, the professional demagogue, the life long politician, the liberal, the Agent of Change who profits from our fears and turns them against us.

Less fun and a little more deflating then going on about economic royalists trodding on our lives but so be it.

I could swear that I heard all this, and in the same tone, back in the seventies and eighties regarding Japan. That was when Rockerfeller Center took on the iconic identity of the Statue of Liberty.

Please, pray tell, what is that you found so much in common between eighties mild panic about Japanese buying America and current subprime problem.

Is it because words Real Estate were floating somewhere in both cases?

It makes them the same for you?
Even though the real estate in question was of vastly different types?

In the spirit of not leaving Steve as the only dissentient voice, I'm reading through this stuff and trying to think of something profound and relevant to say. But the quick thing that occurs ot me first of all is simply that Will also mentions a disquieting point about Huckabee--his endorsement by the NEA in his state and his opposition to school choice. This really is part of a pattern, and Will is doubtless right here: Huckabee is a big government kinda guy. If he hasn't made specific regulatory proposals regarding outsourcing or government limiting of CEO pay (do we really want that?), I wouldn't be surprised if he eventually does. Maybe you like that possibility; maybe you don't. But the bit about the NEA is even more disturbing and serves to my mind as a bellwether indicating a love of centralization and government control in an area where even paleo skeptics of "capitalism" ought to agree it doesn't belong. I do not believe these things all exist in airtight compartments, as I pointed out in the thread on Europe.

mik etc Dash it all, but I thought that maximos was talking about related issues, that the mortgage funds/investments were a segue into questions of, well, corporate responsibility, ethics, power and influence, corruption, blah and so on.

I guess what confused me was his sentence " My point is the related one" etc. That's what must have done it.

The endorsement of the NEA is always grounds for rational concern, though much of the commentary published thus far about Huckabee's positions on educational policy emphasize that his opposition to school choice is rooted in anxiety that government funding will ultimately evolve into government mandates in the curriculum and so forth. That said, I've never once gainsaid the indisputable proposition that Huckabee represents big government conservatism, of the sort that Bushist apparatchiks sought to package as Compassionate Conservatism, and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, a self-promoting pseud, now packages as Heroic Conservatism.

Acknowledgment of these ideological affinities, however, does not entail that each specific policy position articulated by the candidate, or any one in particular, represents the quintessence of such ideology; and the notion, frankly, that an opposition to outsourcing constitutes some sort of statist or Big Government Conservative trope is more than a little risible, for reasons that ought to be too obvious to necessitate mentioning. An end to outsourcing, and the insourcing of low-wage skilled and unskilled labour, for that matter, would hardly constitute some horrible revolution in American polical economy, a harbinger of The New Age of the State; it would essentially restore the status quo that existed into the 1970s, within which, as a consequence of the great immigration moratorium and the cultural and political acceptance of the legitimacy of the requirements of labour (and no, I'm not interested in debating the merits and demerits of the unions of that era; they had their problems, but I'm principally concerned with the fundamental reality of the preference for employing Americans.), standards of living for the middle-class majority rose in the absence of the unremitting downward pressures of the present. If this represents a new dark age of statism, conservatism has truly come unhinged.

Beyond all of this, however, I believe that conservatives ought to repudiate what appears to me to constitute something more than mere (healthy) skepticism of government, which could only be enhanced by an analogous appreciation of the dangers of other concentrations of power, but rather often seems to shade imperceptibly into a manichean notion of government as somehow illegitimate or even evil, the so-called necessary evil. There exist, to my mind, cogent arguments to the effect that government, even in the absence of human sin, would be necessary as a sort of formal principle of human society, as a means of providing for organization and coordination where knowledge is not uniformly dispersed, where there obtain natural inequalities, and so forth. Hence, on such considerations, government is not itself an evil, and merely enunciating, in a spirit of high dudgeon, that such and such a policy would be enforced by government would settle nothing whatsoever. Even, however, were one to dispense with such considerations, regarding government as an institution relative solely to the fallen estate of mankind, it nonetheless remains that government still does not become a necessary evil, but is actually a positive good, a merciful institution, in the sense that, praising the good and reprobating and punishing the evil, it affords space for the flourishing of good, that higher human purposes might not perish from among men. Government is, at its best, a minister of justice, the surety of that good order without which no human goods can flourish. Even if government is not coextensive with human nature itself, it does not follow that government is somehow intrinsically questionable, merely prudentially so; that is, according to circumstances and personages, and so forth - and this is argue the details, and not political metaphysics.

Now, related to the matter under consideration, there exist sound and legitimate reasons for regarding the problem of outsourcing as a legitimate object of government policy, no less than the importation of hordes of foreigners who will toil in the vineyards of postmodern capitalism for mere pittances that would fail to satisfy Americans. This is not solely a question of the loyalties of the elites, and the implicit social compact - not to be confused with social contract theory - which alone ensures legitimacy of rule, according to which elites and commoners are mutually supporting, but also a question of the possibility of self-government in a republican society. If, no matter the consensus of the people, no matter the moral precepts at stake, and regardless of the deleterious consequences for the body politic, the elites are permitted to engage in the outsourcing of gainful employments, and the insourcing of competition for those that remain unexportable as of yet, and indulged by every effusion of high theory, philosophy, and sophistry in this treacherous conceit, then self-government will not long endure, save as the farce of the ratification of the fait accompli. There will no longer exist a society in which elites and commoners recognize and accept that their respective fortunes are inextricably bound together; the fact will be disclosed, and openly acknowledged: the elites rule in their own interests, and against those of the people and their interests, and bid the latter to sup from the stale crumbs that fall from the masters' rich tables. This is not a question of "statism" - to argue that it is to beg the question by presupposing as natural facts of political economy things which are always both moral and positive, not transcriptions of the natural law or the Way Things Are In Themselves, and to render the verdict, accordingly, that a concern with them is illicit on its face - but a question of justice, of the right ordering of relations within a society aiming for the common good, and ultimately, by implications good and necessary, of self-government, of a political regime premised upon consent, as opposed to the mere will of the stronger.

I leave to one side the question of CEO compensation. I think it obvious, from the standpoint of justice, that it is unseemly and obscene both for such compensation to be predicated upon purely utilitarian measures such as stock prices, and for CEOs to be compensated so lavishly when, as is often the case, the companies they rule are either unprofitable, or profitable precisely because they engage in practices the justice of which is dubious. Such as outsourcing, or international labour arbitrage. The question, however, implicates a wider array of issues in law, corporate structuring, the increasing prominence of finance and speculation in the economy, and so forth; the structural issues are broader and probably much deeper, and CEO compensation is more an effect than a cause of what imbalances there exist in the American system.

So, no, I'd not cast a vote for Huckabee, for reasons too numerous to enumerate; but that doesn't mean that everything he states partakes of the errors and follies of his Compassionate Conservatism. And George Will is still a priggish stuffed shirt, who now rallies to the cause of the very establishment that he earlier damned for embroiling the U.S. in the Iraqi quagmire; the establishment that sold out conservatism for a Wilsonian mess of pottage is now a fountainhead of wisdom that must be defended against the rubes and hicks of flyover country. When the chips are down, the conservative establishment will swallow the Empire in order to revel in the economics of globalization, too insentient, as always, to comprehend that they are obverse sides of one coin.

Really, what bothered me about the Will piece was nothing to do with his broadly-worded questioning of Huckabee's economic proclivities but rather his obvious love of Giuliani and his bringing in some sort of weird GOP "traditionalism" to the defense of Giuliani. Opposition to abortion and homosexual "marriage" Will casts as somehow "recent" GOP issues, whereas free market advocacy is really somehow the _core_ of the GOP as it has been held semper, ubique, et ab omnibus. That just strikes me as a cheap rhetorical trick. Cheap rhetorical tricks can be used on behalf of causes that, IMO, are valuable, such as free market conservatism. But a cheap trick it remains. So we're not to emphasize the pro-life cause because it's relatively "new" on the scene, in the sense that if you go back to the 1960's it wasn't an issue in federal elections? Oh, _there's_ an argument. As if, just maybe, Roe v. Wade mightn't have had something to do with that? Will gives the impression that pro-lifers muscled their way into the party out of nowhere and that we should return to the good old days when economic policy and foreign policy were more or less the only things that mattered at the federal level. Speaking as someone who would like to see Roe overturned, I might second that desire in some sense, but not in the way Will apparently means it. He wants it to come about by just accepting Roe as here forever and sticking it to the social conservatives. I think that much is clear just from this article. (I haven't read others of Will's pieces for a long time.)

As for the rest of it, one thing I think I disagree with in the main post here is the implication (but I may have misunderstood) that we cd. lessen the influence of the rich, or perhaps just of the "corporate rich," on politics by imposing more regulations on corporations. That just isn't obvious to me at all. I could even see it going the other way and bringing about more of such influence in a smaller number of hands, as it were--those who had survived the new wave of regulations.

George Will has always had that unseemly proclivity; he has merely given it freer rein in recent years than earlier in his career as a pundit. And his thoughts are more representative of the upper echelons of the GOP than conservatives are comfortable acknowledging; the concerns of social conservatives are at best distractions from what really matters, namely, free market capitalism (although I'd not dignify with the honorific 'free' a system the operating rules of which are more or less set by the largest, most powerful players, who are thus privileged by them), and at worst contraventions of that doctrine. And this entire contretemps affords me the opportunity to reiterate something that I've argued previously, that social conservatives of every confession will lose what influence and credibility they still possess if they guzzle the GOP kool-aid during this election cycle, demonstrating that they are more than willing to be taken for granted.

As for the matter of the influence of the rich after the implementation of unspecified reforms (or "reforms"), well, the devil is always in the details, and the exacerbation of undesirable trends, and the augmentation of the already-considerable power of some, is a realistic possibility, as the history of Progressivism itself illustrates. I fail to see how a prohibition of outsourcing would accomplish such a dubious feat, but ill-considered and superficial measures, oblivious to systemic and structural factors good and ill, could accomplish such deformations with greater ease than the entire system could be reformed, certainly. It is always easier to destroy than build, to worsen things than to make them better; that's simply the nature of existence.

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