Another blatantly ideological post that has little or nothing to do with investing
Okay, so if you made it past that title, you will probably enjoy this article, if you haven't already:
Why Cronyism Doesn't Explain the Free Market's Unpopularity by Bryan Caplan
As you may have guessed, I came across this article after reading David's article and following the link, then poking around a little. I enjoyed it, but I disagree with one thing: underlying the whole piece is the assumption that most people have for an underpinning of their beliefs and feelings about politics either a somewhat decent to impressive foundation of knowledge or a conscious ideology. Based on my experience, I would say this is not the case. And those who have knowledge it is usually of lies, distortions, and slanders that they have never cultivated the critical thinking skills to examine.
For example, for those of you who want to argue with me but won't read the article I linked to: if you ask someone whose education primarily derives from public school to identify the longest-lasting recession in the U.S. before the Federal Reserve was established, you would likely elicit the guess "The Great Depression?" or perhaps even a blank stare. Mark Dice went around trying to give someone a 1oz solid gold coin if they could correctly guess - within 25%! - what the spot price of gold was. The answers, as I recall, mostly ranged from a few cents to about $80. Examples of popular ignorance abound.
With that in mind, it hardly seems surprising that many libertarians, including myself, believe that education would bring many people to a belief in freedom, particularly property rights. The widespread hatred for laissez-faire free markets is not semantic, I'll agree, but neither is it based on some carefully thought-out devotion to Keynesian principles of aggregate demand or Marxist idealism or command economies or luddism or Star Trek Utopianism. It's just people being ignorant. They hear a thousand voices (CNBC, Michael Moore, Jon Stewart, politicians, SNL, Conan O'Brien, David Letterman, CSI, Law & Order, ER, etc. - I'm not exaggerating) insinuating that free markets are bad, and allow rich people to hurt little people, and they just believe it. They don't study, they don't read Krugman's article, they didn't take a Keynesian economics course in college - they just instinctively believe what's been insinuated to them almost every minute of moron media they've subjected themselves to.
I'm not talking about the Devoishes of the world, or TMFBent, or dwot, and I'm obviously not talking about Krugman. They're peas in a pod, and all miss the forest for the trees. I'm talking about people who don't even see trees. I would just take a wild guess that about 80-90% of this country is functionally economically illiterate. I'm not asking you to act on that guess, but just suppose with me. If I'm right, and people are almost all unable to think about economic issues without a lot of help, then why would rejection of capitalism necessarily be due to any kind of firmly-held belief on the part of the hoi paloi?
No, the problem is not opposition to free-market principles or free-market solutions, it's the utter aimlessness of the bulk of the voting public. If you have true opposition to free markets, from truly inculcated Keynesians and dyed-in-the-wool socialists, what you have is like France, where unemployment is pretty much everybody under 35, and even the unemployed take to the streets in protest any time government-mandated severance packages (which subtly act as hiring freezes) are curtailed. On the contrary, here you are much more likely to find people who staunchly support capitalism, as far as they know, but also vote for the hot new government program and subsidies for businesses and farmers, vote against base closings, Medicare cuts, and "RINO's" like Ron Paul.
So going after cronyism really can help. Maybe if we do a scandalous exposé of sugar tariffs, or farm subsidies, or the obvious waste of pork barrel army bases, and expose that these are cronyism and not capitalism. (Trust me: there are a lot of people who actually don't know that.) If only we had some sort of systematic education in this country....