In the wake of the “you didn’t build that” discussions of the past few days, David Brooks writes
The Romney campaign doesn’t seem to know how to respond. For centuries, business leaders have been inept when writers, intellectuals and politicians attacked capitalism, and, so far, the Romney campaign is continuing that streak.
One thing is for sure. As Arthur Brooks of the American Enterprise Institute has said again and again, it’s not enough to say that capitalism will make you money. You can’t fight what is essentially a moral critique with economics.
Romney is going to have to define a vision of modern capitalism. He’s going to have to separate his vision from the scandals and excesses we’ve seen over the last few years. He needs to define the kind of capitalist he is and why the country needs his virtues.
Steve Horwitz’s speech suggestions for Romney address some of Brooks’ claim that the core issue is the morality of market exchange and institutions:
My opponent is right in saying no one does it alone. He is wrong in thinking that is a condemnation of free markets and legitimately accumulated wealth. Markets are the most extensive and profound process of human cooperation we have ever discovered. The way to ensure that such cooperation continues peacefully and with mutual benefit is to allow people to try (and fail!) through the market to provide what others want and to keep the wealth they thereby earn, and to face the consequences of failure. Free markets are human cooperation; government redistribution is not cooperation, it is coercion. The justification for the wealth earned in the market is not that people do it alone. It is instead that allowing people to become wealthy by selling what others want to buy is the best way to ensure peaceful social cooperation and to improve the lives of the least well off.
Bravo. That is a vision of the morality of market exchange and market institutions that I share wholeheartedly.
But does Romney believe that? Do Republicans believe that? Is such a vision of market processes consistent with the policy actions and positions of either Republicans or Democrats, elected or voters?
I don’t think so. The major party duopoly members have demonstrated repeatedly that they are both parties of Big Government, separate branches of the Authoritarian Party, particularly taking into account their shared advocacy for the use of digital surveillance, drone strikes, and an imperial foreign policy. That shared belief in hierarchy and authority and control directly contradicts the moral vision of market processes that Steve lays out.
The cronyism is so ubiquitous and so embedded in the political process that neither branch of the political duopoly can articulate that vision credibly, and I doubt that either one actually believes in it.