Bootleggers, Baptists, and Minorities
By Arnold Kling
The new issue of Cato Unbound promises to be interesting. It starts with an essay by Roderick Long.
because corporate power and the free market are actually antithetical; genuine competition is big business’s worst nightmare. But also, in all too many cases, yes –because although liberty and plutocracy cannot coexist, simultaneous advocacy of both is all too possible.
What he seems to want is a successful political party that is true to an ideology that opposes crony capitalism. It is not going to happen. Crony capitalism comes to us in the form of bootleggers and baptists. (The original Bootleggers and Baptists model comes from Bruce Yandle, as Wikipedia explains.)
Anyone who claims to oppose crony capitalism is a baptist. A crony capitalist is a bootlegger. The problem for Republicans is that if they make friends with bootleggers, then they get accused by Democrats of being crony capitalists. On the other hand, when Democrats make friends with bootleggers, including Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Goldman Sachs, George Soros, and Warren Buffett, they are immune from charges of crony capitalism.
So, the Democrats get most of the baptists–the people who say they want to rein in corporate power–as well as plenty of bootleggers. On top of that, they have the minorities.
On the Republican side, the baptists are the libertarians, who are sympathetic with Long. The problem is that the baptists want to drive the bootleggers out of the Republican Party, which would leave the Democrats as the only party that can collect campaign contributions from the bootleggers. Moreover, the libertarian baptists are culturally misaligned with actual Baptists.
Montgomery County, Maryland, where I live, shows how the Democratic coalition works. All of the major bootleggers that provide funding that is critical for achieving elected office–real estate developers, teachers’ unions, and so on–contribute to the Democratic Party. The baptists on the left are reliably Democratic. Minorities are reliably Democratic. The result is a one-party system that puts the former Eastern Europe to shame.
I could see the same phenomenon taking shape at the national level. The Republican base is shrinking demographically. The incompatibility between libertarians and religious conservatives is harder to reconcile than the divergence among interest groups that make up the Democratic Party. And developments in recent months have weakened the private sector, with American business executives standing outside the Capitol like a bunch of homeless people wearing signs begging for handouts.
I can envision a scenario in which the Democratic coalition is never defeated in an election. The government may collapse financially. Or libertarians may find a way out–secession, emigration, or what have you. But the Republicans Party might not rise again.