XI.4: Big Government or Big Business?

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Big Government or Big Business?

America is fiercely divided today just as it was in 1861 at the start of the American Civil War.

One of the many issues that divide us today is whether our society should be led by big government or big business. Can we have a “free market” if we’re led by big business? Most people define a free market as one without regulation. But without regulation the biggest dogs will always come out on top, which means the market is really not free at all. On the other hand, in a highly regulated market, the biggest dogs capture the regulating agencies and use them to prevent small businesses from competing. (I described regulatory capture in an earlier post.) So the point is that big business wins either way – with or without regulation – and neither way produces a free market.

A truly free market is one where there is real competition for all goods and services. Today we have an approximately free market, which means there is competition but in many cases it is only between the biggest corporations, which is called an oligopoly. And nothing can make those big corporations behave other than a powerful government. So many people think we have to choose either big government or big business to rule over us.

This is just another situation where we are led to believe in a false choice between only two alternatives, when our choices are in fact infinite. (I described a similar false choice in an earlier post.)

What we need is an entirely new way to organize our society.

But nothing will ever work as long as the left wing and right wing insist on shoving their way of thinking down each other’s throats. There is no end to that battle because one side or the other will always be unhappy. And compromise is even worse because it leaves both sides unhappy.

But some people are searching for a different solution:

The false choice between “big government” and “free markets” is a distraction …. (Rothkopf 2012, 93)

The question we should consider is not, as some modern politicians implicitly or explicitly frame it, whether business or government is good or whether one is relatively better than the other. The more salient and constructive question is what roles we want business and government to play in society, and this in turn forces us to ask what goals we have for society in the first place. (Rothkopf 2012, 105)

America’s founders created an ingenious federal system that has served America amazingly well. But both left-wing and right-wing special interest groups have figured out how to game the system, to get rich at our expense. Probably most of those people have simply deluded themselves into believing they are our saviors. Why don’t we put all of them, including those self-appointed saviors, out of our misery?

We don’t have to choose either big government or big business.

The left-wing and right-wing special interest groups love to picture each other as the bogeyman. That way, they can use our fear to distract our eyes while they rob us blind. This war between left and right shoves us into a box. And we desperately need to learn how to think outside that box before they strip us bare.

The left-wing special interests tell us – and they’re correct – that there really is no absolutely “free market”, because market manipulators are everywhere. They beat the drums of fear about the rich and powerful people who manipulate the markets, and they yell for more government control. How foolish! Don’t they know that those same rich and powerful people already manipulate the government just like they manipulate the markets?

And then the right-wing special interests tell us – and they’re also correct – that government ruins everything it sets out to control. They beat the drums of fear about the elitists who want to swell and control the government, and they yell for more private control. How foolish! Don’t they know that private interests swell up and gain control for exactly the same reasons governments do?

And then, because unbiased journalism doesn’t exist, the right-wing and left-wing media bombard us with propaganda.

They feed our hate and our fears so we’ll watch, read, or listen. Surely you know they make colossal fortunes off the advertisements they push on us between the editorials they masquerade as newscasts.

It’s all about power, and of course, money is power. Big business and big government go hand in hand (with their other hands in our pockets I might add!). Mark Twain understood how it works:

I saw a startling site today, a politician with his hands in his own pockets.” (Twain)

We actually can create a different world where small businesses compete for our money and small governments compete for our allegiance. Can you believe me?

This site is for discussing how to improve our political system. It is NOT for discussing party politics or political figures. So if you have a non-partisan question or comment, feel free to leave it below.

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Rothkopf, David. 2012. Power, Inc. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Twain, Mark. n.d. Goodreads. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/389073-i-saw-a-startling-sight-today-a-politician-with-his/ (Accessed Sept. 5, 2020)

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