from Jonah Goldberg at National Review, Opponents of ‘Unfettered Capitalism’ Are Fighting a Phantom:
If the Progressive Era was a response to unfettered capitalism, did it accomplish nothing? Teddy Roosevelt broke up the trusts, regulated the food supply, created the National Park System, and fettered the railroads. The Labor Department was established (by President Taft, a conservative) in 1913. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, enacted in 1916, provided benefits to workers injured on the job. The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act was passed in 1927. And then there’s the New Deal, another famous attempt to slap fetters on the rough beast of capitalism. It created Social Security, formally banned child labor, and established the minimum wage, among countless other restraints on capitalism run amok.
The United States has one of the most progressive tax systems in the world (i.e., the share of taxes paid by the rich versus everyone else). If you take into account all social-welfare spending, we spend more on entitlements than plenty of rich countries.
Now, if you think we don’t spend, regulate, or tax enough, fine. Make your case. If you think we should spend and tax differently, I’m right there with you. But the notion that the United States is a libertarian fantasyland is itself a fantasy. I mean, by the Hammer of Thor, every summer we get stories of kids being fined for running lemonade stands without a license.
My frustration stems from the fact that we “fetter” the market constantly. And whenever the fetters yield an undesirable result — such as, say, the financial crisis of 2008 — the blame always lands on eternally unfettered capitalism.
Just to be clear: I’m not an advocate for unfettered capitalism. But I am sick and tired of hearing people advocate unfettered government to fight an enemy that doesn’t exist. And I’m particularly dyspeptic about the fact that conservatives are now buying into the same fantasy.
Capitalism works best when knowledge and power meet. Government is power without knowledge; regulation strips power from knowledge. It is suspicious when the answer to unfettered capitalism which does not exist is unfettered government which is the greater problem. It is hard to conceive of distant parties with no skin in the game making wiser decisions than people who have to face the consequences of their choices. The problem is political actors who want to dispense benefits without paying for them.