Oren Cass as a gift to Bernie Sanders
Were I Bernie Sanders, I would continuously quote Oren Cass and his ambition of giving the United States an industrial policy.
Though he is more nuanced and moderate than most advocates of an “entrepreneurial state”, Cass interprets industrial policy as being oriented towards supporting manufacturing and “vital sectors that might otherwise suffer from underinvestment”. That definition, as always with industrial policy, is loose enough to be applicable to pretty much everything. What is a vital sector? How do you assess under-investment?
Industrial policy is meant to be discretionary, because it aims to correct alleged errors on the part of investors and consumers in the market economy insofar as the allocation of resources is concerned. It is “picking winners”, and picking winner needs a picker.
A number of people have produced meaningful criticism of Cass’s ideas. See Henderson, Reinsch, Cowen and Boudreaux among others. Yet these ideas seem to be certain to gain traction, as they are well attuned with the ambitions of the political class and with the widespread idea that markets ought to be “corrected” so as to guarantee better social outcomes.
But why should Sanders think about Cass? Because, in a way, Cass wants to give the left the right they always dreamt (and ranted) about. The left tends to believe that the right is the hostage of special interests that drive its economic policies. Yet deregulation is an implausible proof of that point: from an almighty entity such as government, nobody is satisfied with getting simply “being neglected”; they want boons. Subsidies, special privileges, regulations that allows them to keep competitors at bay.
Now, this always happens, more or less, with either the left or the right in government, as they are both sensitive to the sirens of interest groups. Yet the free market rhetoric of (some part of) the right was if anything a brake on this tendency. Their much talked about allegiance to the ideas of a freer economy created a problem for right wingers: they needed to justify, at least in front of their followers, deviations from a policy of non-intervention. But take away the free market rhetoric, and they won’t even need to do that.
Were I Sanders, I would point out that the right has even stopped pretending not to be a covered-up special interest operation. But I suspect it won’t do it. Because, perhaps with better intentions, his rhetoric is completely aligned with that of industrial policy wannabes. You make your own deductions.