The vast regulatory apparatus that emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was thus specifically campaigned for by the business community. ..The supposedly pro-labour legislation that emerged from this area was also mostly bogus, a matter of co-opting labour leaders into a junior partnership with government and business in exchange for not rocking the boat.
Read the whole thing. Much-appreciated pointer from Will Wilkinson.
This phenomenon goes by many names. My father liked Murray Edelman’s term, symbolic reassurance. The progressive symbols were used,, but underneath it was corporate-state co-operation. A more recent term is bootleggers-and-baptists coalitions. The bootleggers are the corporations who say that consumers need protection from dangerous products or from products made by cheap labor. The baptists fall for that. The result is regulated industries, free to operate in monopolistic fashion. I think that major auto companies are protected by regulation, including the many regulations that Ralph Nader forced on them several decades ago. You can’t start a car company today. You’d need too many lawyers. Similarly, you can’t bring a new drug to market as an independent company. You have to sell to big pharma. Thanks to progressives, the supposed enemies of big corporate power.
Homework: write an essay on how this model explains the latest actions of the government in the financial crisis.