'Industrial Policy'? No Thanks!

By McNickle, Colin | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, September 21, 2008 | Go to article overview

'Industrial Policy'? No Thanks!


McNickle, Colin, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Capitalism's "failure" has spawned a resurrection of some troubling terms with noxious implications.

There's "nationalization," what the federal government has done with financial insurance giant AIG, mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and what it wants to do with just about every bad mortgage, now hilariously called "illiquid assets."

While the government might be correct in its assessment that the failure of mismanaged and overleveraged financial entities might have led to a total economic collapse, such necessarily "practical" interventions always are one step away from the close twins of "socialism" and "fascism."

Hyperbole? Hardly. As noted libertarian writer Sheldon Richman once said, "The best example of a fascist economy is the regime of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. (He held) that liberalism (by which he meant freedom and free markets) had 'reached the end of its historical function.'"

Shockingly, it's the same sentiment expressed by contemporary liberals (by which I mean "progressives," as in devotees of socialism). While Mussolini was convinced that capitalism had begun to conflict with the interests of "the state," modern liberals point to the current economic upheaval to argue that capitalism conflicts with "the public good," which, in their minds, is wealth transference in pursuit of income equality in pursuit of kumbaya.

Another nocent precept enjoying a revival in liberal intellectual circles -- isn't that oxymoronic? -- is that of establishing an "industrial policy." Sunday last, The Toledo, Ohio, Block Bugler supported such a move, though it's doubtful it understands what it proposes.

Here's a brief tutorial from University of California, Irvine economist Richard B. McKenzie:

"National industrial policy is a rubric for a broad range of proposed economic reforms that emerged as a unified political program in the early 1980s. Had they been passed, these reforms would have given government officials additional authority, as well as the necessary fiscal and regulatory powers, to directly alter the country's industrial structure. …

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