Opposing View: 'Occupiers' Should Look Beyond Wall Street

Opposing View: 'Occupiers' Should Look Beyond Wall Street

October 12, 2011
Originally published in USA Today

The Occupy Wall Street crowd has a few things in common with the Tea Partiers. Both would sign onto the slogan, "The banks got bailed out, I got sold out!" Both oppose "fat cats," though for different reasons. Occupiers tend to be anti-capitalist, believing that bank profits reflect the exploitation of the people. Tea Partiers favor free enterprise but focus on how too often some businesses rely on politics rather than markets.

The problems we face come not from capitalism, Wall Street variety or any other, but rather from crony-capitialism.

Tea Partiers distinguish capitalism from crony-capitalism. Occupiers confuse them. In fact, some Occupiers seek their own form of cronyism — an expanded government that will help the "right" beneficiaries, such as students and homeowners, instead of bankers and automakers.

This sentiment is nothing new. Ralph Nader always notes that government helps big business but then argues for more government to fix the problem. How can this be wise, when government favoritism encouraged crony-capitalism in the first case?

Were the Occupiers and Partiers to find common ground in demanding repeal of all the special-interest policies that now entangle politics and business, competition would force the fat cats to diet and weed out those businessmen who rely on political clout to enrich themselves. After all, capitalism exists to allocate capital. Crony-capitalism misallocates it. Freeing the economy from that burden would make Wall Street investments more productive, allowing the American economy the opportunity to rebound.

The economist Joseph Schumpeter, in his essay "Can Capitalism Survive?", warned long ago that too many business leaders would seek success through politics rather than competition, and that this would destroy true capitalism. Certainly, too many in Wall Street have succumbed to that temptation, and capitalism has suffered accordingly. But it suggests that Occupiers and the Tea Partiers share at least one common enemy. The Solyndra scandal illustrates that crony-capitalists are found far beyond Wall Street. Thus, instead of focusing on one small part of Manhattan Island, shouldn't we liberate the whole American economy?