Free Markets, Free People

Rent seeking Republicans

That would include almost all of the establishment beltway Republicans:

Ethanol subsidies, oil drilling incentives, government insurance and loan guarantees for nuclear energy, natural gas subsidies: These proposals tend to have as many or more Republican advocates as Democratic advocates. Even worse, self-described free-market conservatives often rally for energy subsidies and claim it’s not a deviation from their principles.

Timothy Carney is exactly right. And in fact, defenders of these sorts of subsidies are easy to find – Newt Gingrich for instance:

Q. Your energy proposals consist largely of incentives — essentially, subsidies. You’ve also fought efforts to remove subsidies from fossil fuels. If you support free, open, and competitive markets, shouldn’t you support removing subsidies that distort the market?

A. [Gingrich] Not if you believe that a low-cost energy regime is essential to our country — both in terms of its internal transportation cost and its competitiveness in the world market.

Of course that argument can be made for absolutely any politically desired program.  In fact, Democrats make it for solar and wind power.

So, when you hear establishment Republicans talk about “free markets” it’s really not what they’re talking about – instead they’re talking about favored businesses.  Or, as Carney points out, they’re more pro-business than pro-market.  Crony capitalism – not free markets.

As Dan Riehl argues that’s why grassroots conservatives and establishment “conservatives” really don’t see eye to eye:

Herein lies the dirty little secret of why the GOP is slow to actually empower the grassroots and conservative movement. It’s also why, in some measure, we can no longer rely on the so called Beltway conservative establishment. Just like Republicans, they’ve come to rely on corporate money, allowing them to drive a large part of their agenda.

Or, unsurprisingly, they’ve been co-opted – more in a long line politicians reduced to rent-seeking for favored corporations to fund their re-election campaigns.

When the GOP talks about being “pro-market”, you’re advised to take that with a grain of salt.



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12 Responses to Rent seeking Republicans

  • Rat on, McQ…!  Welfare is welfare, regardless of who the recipient, or what the excuse.  I’ve wondered for decades why there is such a discipline as Agricultural Economics.  My take is that…removing all government distortions of the markets for agricultural products…there is no such thing as a unique sub-family of economics.
    Republicans (or any conservative-ish pol) does our Republic great harm by blurring the lines between the notion of free-market capitalism and market-distorting BIG GOVERNMENT.

  • Is some of this simply a counterweight to government regulation though? For example, its hard to open a nuclear power plant, so we will give you some tax breaks? (and is that because it would be very hard and politically unpopular to cut regulation?)

    • Want to be clear, I don’t like this as an answer, just considering their “rationale.”

      • I suggest that it’s less of a counterweight than simple hypocrisy.  To use your example, the clowns who give a tax break for a nuke plant in their district / state (“It creates jobs!”) are the same idiots who voted for the burdensome regulations.  It never occurs to them that the fact that they’ve got to dangle the carrot of tax breaks means that they’ve made far too big a regulatory stick in the first place. 

        What’s even more maddening is that the regulatory burden may not even be effective: look at the Gulf Spill, the financial meltdown, Maddoff, 9-11, and other recent examples of the failure of the government.  How many people worked for MMS who DIDN’T notice that things were (apparently) not all well on the rig?  How many people worked for EPA, the Coast Guard, FEMA, and other agencies who DIDN’T notice that we were not ready for a spill AS REQUIRED BY LAW?  We’ve got thousands of people working in these various watchdog agencies who always seem to have been corrupt, asleep at the switch, or just plain ol’ stupid after a catastrophe.  Our usual response?  HIRE MORE!

  • McQ [W]hen you hear establishment Republicans talk about “free markets” it’s really not what they’re talking about – instead they’re talking about favored businesses.  Or, as Carney points out, they’re more pro-business than pro-market.  Crony capitalism – not free markets.

    Hey, what’s going on here???  I thought that this was a Republican blog!  I mean, WTF?  I come here to read Republican talking points direct from Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Newt, and other Republican leaders, not read bad things about the party!  Get with the program!

    / sarc

    But you’re quite right that the GOP is less “market”-oriented and more “business”-oriented.  This is a natural and perhaps inescapable result of our system of government: members of Congress find it in their electoral and financial best interests to see to it that certain organizations / groups (industries, farms, unions, etc.) are favored by government policy.  The only way to get around this that I see is a return to strong federalism: the federal government couldn’t establish favorable policies because the Constitution doesn’t allow it.

  • The Republicans aren’t the rent seekers, they’re the whores. And it’s always one step forward and two back with Gingrich; he can’t help himself.

  • The more I think about this problem, the more I am persuaded that we need a re-set of campaign finance laws. Specifically, that only human citizens of voting age be permitted to donate to political campaigns and such amounts to be unlimited provided all donations over $5000 are reported within 30 days. I would not outlaw expenditures by political action committees but I would apply the same rules, no contributions by organizations, only individual citizens of voting age. I don’t mean to suggest that this would solve all the problems, but I think it is simple and easily administered. Two reasons why this type of reform would likely never be considered let alone passed into law.

  • Oh please … let’s not forget the subsidies for ethanol.   Where would ADM be without them ?

    • Bottomline … name a energy source … there is a subsidy in there for it.  If there isn’t … it is struggling.