Recently, the “big government versus big business” paradigm has been brought to the forefront, primarily by the coverage of Occupy movement. There are Tea Party versus Occupier debates, where the Occupier is typically cast as exclusively fearing Big Business and the Tea Partier is cast as exclusively fearing Big Government. There have been recent polls asking “Who do you fear more: Big Business or Big Government?” The question presents somewhat of a false paradigm, as the two are intertwined, at least in relation to what people typically fear about Big Government and Big Business. The “evils” of Big Business most often come through manipulation of Big Government.
One of the more recent “evils” of big business was the so-called banker bailout, which (among other provisions) allowed emergency loans and permitted the Department of Treasury to purchase illiquid, assets of questionable value from banks and other financial institutions. It was advertised as allowing participating institutions to “stabilize their balance sheets and avoid further losses.” Elected Democrats and Republicans largely voted for it. Fortunately, Democrats and Republicans citizens largely decry the bill. Especially after it came to light that banks reaped an estimated $13 billion of income by taking advantage of the Fed’s below-market interest rates on the emergency loans. In other words, Big Business pawned off its assets, which were illiquid due to its own actions, to Big Government and leveraged artificially low interest rates for a nice profit.
That outrage was primarily directed to Big Business. That outrage is one of the bases of the Occupy movement. However, the outrage should be primarily directed to Big Government:
- “How can a business get taxpayers to bail it out after losses?” (Big Government)
- “Who is in the best position to seek the favors of Big Government?” (Big Business)
The pattern of Big Business using Big Government is long and evident. However, let’s stick to recent history. Democrats were most popularly associated with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, dubbed “ObamaCare.” The act ostensibly requires employers to provide a minimum annual benefit included in low-cost health plans often used to cover part-time or low-wage employees. It seemed great to supporters when the bill passed. There was celebration about the victory. However, the legislation contained provisions permitting the Department of Health and Human Services to waive minimums for select companies. Waivers were granted to companies such as McDonald’s and Jack In The Box on the basis that the costs were prohibitive. However, other impacted businesses had to comply with the provisions. Advantage: Big Business (via Big Government).
Big Government teams with Big Business telecommunication companies (AT&T, Sprint Nextel, Verizon Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., and others) for mass monitoring of internet and telephone communications. Someone should be liable, criminally or civilly, right? No. Later, Big Government passes a law granting telecommunications companies legal immunity. Big Government protects itself via claims of national security. Parties sue claiming the law is unconstitutional. In ruling the law constitutional, the Judge implicitly states the relationship between Big Government and Big Business:
… It emphasized that electronic intelligence gathering depends in great part on cooperation from private companies … and that if litigation were allowed to proceed against persons allegedly assisting in such activities, ‘the private sector might be unwilling to cooperate with lawful government requests in the future,’
Advantage: Big Business (via Big Government). On the other hand, maybe it should be Advantage: Big Government (via Big Business). Either way, Disadvantage: “99%”.
And the relationship shows no signs of changing. Even in pending legislation, the connection between Big Business and Big Government is demonstrated. The proposed legislation, Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), proposes requiring fundamental, technical modifications to the internet in order for U.S. law enforcement and copyright holders to inhibit online trafficking in copyrighted intellectual property and counterfeit goods. Categories of internet services providers would be required to make (and bear the overhead of) those modifications. The legislation was not publicly available, but it was rumored that Big Business internet service providers were invited and/or lobbying to provide input on that aspect of the proposed legislation. During a Congressional hearing on the the proposed legislation, it was noted that GoDaddy and others would be immune from the reach of SOPA. Again, Advantage: Big Business (via Big Government).
That smaller tech company, you know the one that might actually have a pro-liberty or pro consumer standpoint doesn’t receive that same advantage.
In each of the above examples, Big Business used Big Government to receive a direct monetary advantage, receive immunity for actions in which it would ordinarily be liable, or have an exemption from burdensome activity. In order to limit the evils of Big Business, we must limit Big Government. The Libertarian Party has consistently advocated this position. It is nice to see Occupiers, Democrats, and Republicans unite in outrage. Kill two birds with one stone and solve the underlying problem by supporting limited government, hopefully through the party that has consistently limited the ability of Big Business to manipulate Big Government.