Sunday, October 7, 2012

Economic Royalism, Not Fascism

I want to do a series of posts on the increasingly open identification of the Republican Party as the plutocratic party.  I realize that the reason Democrats have found it so frustrating the the white working class votes Republican is the view that the Republican Party is the party of plutocrats.  But since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, and especially with the Romney-Ryan ticket, the tendency is becoming increasingly open.

The Republican Party is more or less openly positioning itself in favor of the unrestricted power of big money interests.  Some people on the left refer to this as fascism, but that is not accurate.  Fascism was a populist movement that often expressed resentment of big money elites.  Fascist paramilitaries were not hired guns for the elite, but popular organizations outside their control.  Granted, big money elites ultimately cut a deal with the fascists in Italy and Germany because they feared left-wing revolution from below, but it was always an uneasy alliance.

Romney-Ryan Republicans, by contrast, are advocates of big money interests plain pure and simple. Plutocracy would be an accurate description of what they advocate.  But I prefer the term economic royalism.  (I will, nonetheless, often use the term plutocracy because it is shorter).

There are immistakeable similarities between old-style royalism and economic royalism.  Old-style royalists believed that the social order was ordained by God, and that any questioning of it was blasphemy against God's will.  They believed that kings were agents of God and that their actions must be regarded as God's will.  They used the expression, "The king can do no wrong, " but they did not mean it quite literally.  The view that no king ever did anything wrong was impossible to maintain in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.  But what they did argue was that the king was answerable to God only, and that no lesser mortal was ever permitted to challenge the king's actions.

Well, then, economic royalists believe that the social order is ordained by the free market and that any attempt at reform is blasphemy against the free market.  They believe that capitalists (both independent entrepeneurs and corporate managers) are agents of the free market and their actions must be seen as the will of the free market.  They do not actually claim that capitalists never make mistakes because the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming.  But they do maintain that capitalists are answerable to the free market only, and that no lesser mortal may legitimately question their actions.  The big difference is that old-style royalists believed that the social order God ordained was immutable and should never change.  Given the disruptiveness of the modern-day free market, economic royalists do not maintain that position today.  Instead, they view any disruptions as the free market may create as part of its will and see any attempt to soften or mitigate them as blasphemy.

Economic royalists often regard themselves as libertarians.   They say that they are not supporters of big money interests, but simply opponents of any government interference with the free market.  Thus they oppose most government regulations interfering with the freedom of private actors.  But in case of conflict between one set of private actors and another, their preferences are revealing.  They oppose unions, for instance, even though unions are private actors.  Ditto homeowner's associations trying to keep out a developer.  Often they say that unions or homeowners' associations are cartels unfairly interfering with the workings of the free market, which should be consumer-driven.  But then libertarians turn out to be advocates of tort reform, seeking to limit consumers' ability to sue for products that harm them.  Alternately, libertarians say that the economy is property shareholder-driven, rather than consumer-driven.  But libertarians are not notably friendly to shareholder derivative suits against corporate management.

In short, economic royalists who call themselves libertarians invariably favor not only private actors over government regulation, but producers over consumers, employers over employees, developers over homeowners, and corporate management over shareholders.  If this is not a presumption of infallibility of the management and championship of its interests, it is a remarkable imitation.  It reached its apotheosis during the 2008 economic crisis when an extraordinary number of conservatives were unwilling to admit that the prospect of widespread failures of banks and the auto industry could possibly have anything to do with mistakes by management, and must be the result of government regulation and unions, respectively.

And now the presumably infallible agents of the free market see their status as threatened and they are mad as hell.  That will be the topic of my next post.

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