Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Big business and big government

Many on the left are fond of portraying themselves as defenders of the little guy, using the power of government to thwart established interests such as big business. The reality is that often times big government and big business are two sides of the same coin. Rather than viewing government as an obstacle, big business often sees it as a means to end. It's a variation on the saying that if you can't beat em', join em'.

While big business dislikes many of the regulations and taxes imposed by government there is one thing that it despises even more: competition. In the free market no company -- even longtime established players -- is guaranteed survival. Just ask Circuit City, Pan Am or Kodak. The easiest company to manage is a monopoly.

This is why, for example, Wal-Mart favors raising the minimum wage. Wal-Mart can beat anyone on economies of scale, but must still guard against competitors who pay their workers less. By guaranteeing that everyone pays their employees more they don't have to worry as much about competitors with lower employee costs.

This also why many companies favor licensing requirements, which stand as a further barrier to companies entering the marketplace. Fewer companies mean less competition.

Besides leveraging government to foster a less competitive environment big business also loves using the government to reduce costs. For example, a number of big businesses are banding together to promote Obama's health care reform initiative. Why? Currently companies are responsible for providing health care for their employees. If they can shift that burden to the government it's a win for them.

GE, meanwhile, is busy promoting their green energy credentials and support for global warming legislation. Government support for "clean energy" means that they can sell more of their wind turbines.

Then there's just plain money to be made off of getting handouts from the government, such as subsidies for corn and ethanol production:
Between 1995 and 2003, federal corn subsidies totaled $37.3 billion. That's more than twice the amount spent on wheat subsidies, three times the amount spent on soybeans, and 70 times the amount spent on tobacco.
The reality is that big government represents the ultimate in the status quo. The dynamic, ever changing environment of the free market represents the complete opposite.

If you really want to fight The Man it is best done by reducing his influence, not expanding government powers.

No comments: