More Notes for a Debate
By Arnold Kling
What have I gotten myself into?. You can watch tonight (Friday, January 21st) on C-span. I have never been booed before, but that seems likely. Tim Carney and I will play the role of Christians in this Roman lion theater, as we will be panelists at what amounts to a pep rally against corporate political speech.
I was thinking of presenting a visual, sort of a Venn Diagram. Let my right hand represent corporate power, and let my left hand represent government power. Bring them together so that there is partial overlap. Let the overlapping region represent corporate power reinforced by government power. We can agree that this is bad. Where we will disagree is in whether we worry about corporate power or government power separately.
How can we worry about corporate power separately? Corporate power is fleeting. If I were to read you a list of the 30 companies that were in the Dow Jones Industrial Average from 1959, you would not be frightened at all. They are almost all has-beens. Eastman Kodak? Bethlehem Steel? Chrysler? Alcoa? International Paper?
Hardly any of the top 10 corporations of 30 years ago are still in the top 10 today. But what if you made a list of the top political lobbying organizations? The realtors, AARP, the lawyers, the bankers, etc.
Look at family dynasties. I cannot think of one current CEO of a Fortune 500 company who is the son of a fortune 500 CEO. But in politics, Mitt Romney the failed Presidential candidate is the son of a failed Presidential candidate. Governor Andrew Cuomo is the son of a governor. William Daley…I could go on
Just on more example: Microsoft. In 1980, how many customers did they have? 500? 5000? Fifteen years later, the Justice Department is after them as a monopoly. Fifteen years after that, Microsoft seems like it is struggling to remain relevant.
Corporate power, in and of itself, just does not scare me.
See my earlier notes.