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Justifying Crony Capitalism by Saying ‘Everyone Does It’

Neil Irwin uses of trope of ubiquity (‘everyone does it, let’s be realistic’) to defend against the powerful accusation that crony capitalism is a grab for the well-fed from the less-fortunate:

How one stands on reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank of the United States is a test of who’s really in charge of the Republican party, pitting business interests against a populist Tea Party wing. The two sides could agree that they hate Obamacare and want to cut social welfare spending. But the debate over Ex-Im Bank pits the likes of the Heritage Foundation and Americans for Prosperity directly against the preferences of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and National Association of Manufacturers….

But when you dive into the debate, it also offers something else: A fascinating case study in how modern economies really work, and the ways big business and big government are inevitably intertwined in ways that believers in free markets may not like — but may not be able to avoid. In short, we’re all crony capitalists, whether we like it or not.

No, we’re not all crony capitalists, and it’s simply imprecision and poor analysis to suggest that thousands of small-businesses struggling on their own are anything like Boeing, for example.

Irwin recognizes that there’s “a principled libertarian case to be made that this world we live in of big companies and big governments working hand in hand stifles competition and makes consumers worse off,” but contends that it’s “less clear that the current push to get rid of the Export-Import Bank would do much of anything to change that.”

Getting rid of the Ex-Im Bank is powerful first step against powerfully cosseted big businesses.

A question for Mr. Irwin: if getting rid of the Ex-IM Bank wouldn’t change anything, then why are the few, big beneficiaries of that bank fighting so hard to save it?

They know it does matter, to their advantage.

Via Why We’re All Crony Capitalists, Like It or Not @ NYTimes.com.

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