Our Rent-Seeking Socialists
Conn Carroll /
If you’re reding this blog, you’re probably already a fan of George Will and probably already read his column this weekend. But just in case you haven’t here are some highlights:
The seepage of government into everywhere is, we are assured, to be temporary and nonpolitical. Well.
The distribution of a trillion dollars by a political institution — the federal government — will be nonpolitical? How could it be? Either markets allocate resources, or government — meaning politics — allocates them. Now that distrust of markets is high, Americans are supposed to believe that the institution they trust least — Congress — will pony up $1 trillion and then passively recede, never putting its 10 thumbs, like a manic Jack Horner, into the pie? Surely Congress will direct the executive branch to show compassion for this, that and the other industry. And it will mandate “socially responsible” spending — an infinitely elastic term — by the favored companies.
Detroit has not yet started spending the $25 billion that Congress has approved but already is, like Oliver Twist, holding out its porridge bowl and saying, “Please, sir, I want some more.”
This is the only major industrial society that has never had a large socialist party ideologically, meaning candidly, committed to redistribution of wealth. This is partly because Americans are an aspirational, not an envious, people. It is also because the socialism we do have is the surreptitious socialism of the strong, e.g., sugar producers represented by their Washington hirelings.
In America, socialism is un-American. Instead, Americans merely do rent-seeking — bending government for the benefit of private factions. The difference is in degree, including the degree of candor. The rehabilitation of conservatism cannot begin until conservatives are candid about their complicity in what government has become.