Thursday, December 17, 2009

Are Corporations Conservative?

Ross Douthat responds to this (characteristically overdone) tirade from Keith Olbermann:

Ross makes the obvious point that large corporations are not "conservative" by nature. Rather, they have a rent-seeking agenda that is politically ambiguous:

Such rent-seeking doesn’t always translate into support for the administration’s policies. The business/government nexus is more potent on some issues than on others, and the “business community” is hardly a monolith. (Different industries have different interests, and rival companies often want different things from Washington.) Corporate America has been divided on cap and trade, for instance, and the health insurance industry has played a double game on health care reform (now trying to shape the bill to their liking, now trying to stir up public anxiety about it) that’s so complicated I’m not sure even they understand it.

. . .

But still: The hand-in-glove relationship between a Democratic administration and certain precincts of corporate America is one of the major stories of the Obama era. And if you want to know why the Department of Energy has become a venture capital firm, or what happened to Barack Obama’s pledge to allow American consumers to buy their drugs from overseas, or why the health care bill looks, well, the way it looks, [Tim] Carney’s book is a good place to start.

Carney is more stringently libertarian than I am — more anti-TARP, for instance, and more thoroughgoingly critical of the welfare state in general. But his kind of libertarian populism is a important counterweight to what’s been happening in Washington across the last twelve months. His analysis represents the cogent version of the inchoate angst that’s gripped the conservative base of late. And both conservatism and the country would be better off if it enjoyed [as] wide an audience as say, Glenn Beck’s nightly forays into performance art.

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