Liberalism and Cronyism

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Few expect this to improve.

Liberalism will endure but must be renewed | Financial Times

Yet Mr Putin is right on one point. Liberal democracies have run into difficulties, notably over their ability to absorb immigrants and manage inequality. Liberal societies do need shared values and identity.

The Failure of Liberal Politics

That is perfectly compatible with immigration and enduring cultural differences. But both need to be managed: otherwise, popular discontent will bring to power leaders who despise the norms of liberal democracy. The fragile balance might then collapse. Much that US president Donald Trump says and does indicates his contempt for those norms, notably a free press and an independent judicial system.

This decline, it noted, also occurred in western democracies, with the US — the most influential upholder of democratic values — leading the way. Liberalism may be much the most successful approach. But in many liberal democracies people, especially elites, have forgotten the balance that needs to be struck between the individual and society, the global and the domestic, and freedom and responsibility. Liberalism is not a utopian project, it is a work in perpetual progress. It is an approach to living together that starts from the primacy of human agency.

But that is only the starting point.

Liberal women have little chance if the system still favours party cronyism

Making that approach work requires constant adaptation and adjustment. Mr Putin has no idea what this means: he cannot conceive of a social order that does not rest on force and fraud.


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We know better. But we also need to do better — far better. Choose your FT trial. Currently reading:. Beijing tightens its grip on the periphery. Putin's heartfelt rejection of 'liberal elites'. No, Mr Putin, western liberalism is not obsolete. Hong Kong stands at a perilous turning point. Populists beware: liberalism can be a fighting creed too.


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Opinion Geopolitics. Martin Wolf July 2, Experimental feature. Listen to this article Play audio for this article Pause What was mispronounced? Optional: help us by adding the time. Promoted Content. Explore the series. About this series. Follow the topics in this article Martin Wolf. Cookies on FT Sites We use cookies for a number of reasons, such as keeping FT Sites reliable and secure, personalising content and ads, providing social media features and to analyse how our Sites are used.

Manage cookies. Tens of thousands of people were made galley slaves or executed for importing or selling or even wearing cotton garments in France. The same attempt to ban cotton almost succeeded at the Tudor court in England, but fell short. British cotton textiles then became the basis of the industrial revolution. Laissez faire modified the crony system in the UK and US, but did not begin to eradicate it.

This led to what I called in my earlier post the progressive paradox: as government takes more and more control of the economy, allegedly in order to right wrongs, it leads private special interests to put more and more effort into taking over government. Indeed government, whatever it says, often initiates and usually welcomes the process. Since the s, the face of progressivism in economics has been Keynesian. Despite his intellectual errors and character flaws, Keynes was never personally corrupt. He would be appalled at what is done now in his name.

A few cases in point: when President Obama finally got his tax increase on the rich, in the very same bill he included massive federal giveaways to favored industries donating to him.

Free Market Economics and Crony Capitalism

The giveaways more than canceled any revenue gain to the treasury from the tax increases. The stimulus bill, also presented as Keynesian, directed much of its money to friendly state and local governments and friendly private interest donors. A startling proportion of green energy grantees benefiting from the that bill were also friendly political donors.

Despite this and many other glaring examples, the New York Times keeps telling us that the Obama administration has been scandal free.

Cronyism and conservatives

Neither the behavior nor the excuses are what the early progressives imagined progressivism would be. It was supposed to protect the poor and middle class from the powerful. It has done the reverse. Mont Pelerin was not, as my progressive friend thought, convened in in order to provide intellectual cover for crony capitalist practices. This is a complete fabrication and travesty of the truth. Its members were just applying basic logic to the problem at hand: if crony capitalism represents an illicit alliance of government and private interests in the economy, the only sure way to combat it is to separate economy from state, just as our constitution separates church from state.

Does this mean that we will return to allowing child labor? Of course not. Just as churches operate within a basic moral framework, some of which is embodied in law, the economy, freed of government control, would do the same. There is no discipline more severe than market discipline, which is why businesses try to escape it with government assistance. Legal constraints together with free markets, in which producers must justify everything they do to consumers, will provide far more protection for children than laws alone, especially when the government enforcers of law can be bought.

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When we think about what is licit and illicit for the government to do in the economy, the key test is pricing. If the government is controlling or manipulating or otherwise trying to influence free prices, you can be sure that a crony capitalist deal has been struck behind closed doors.

A march through history in only a few paragraphs cannot be expected to shed much illumination.



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