"What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the
fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by
some powerful hidden hand," Frank Rich wrote in Sunday's New York Times.
That manipulation should disturb us. But contrary to Rich, it is
not the work of "corporatists" who have sprung up to attack progressive
reforms proposed by Obama and the Democratic majority. Manipulation is what
we got many years ago when we traded a more or less free market for the
"progressive" interventionist state. When government is big, the
well-connected always have an advantage over the rest of us in influencing
Observe: Although President Obama and big-government activists
demonize health-insurance companies, the companies "are still mostly on
board with the president's effort to overhaul the U.S. health-care system,"
the Wall Street Journal reports; and …
Although the activists criticize Big Pharma, "The drug industry
has already contributed millions of dollars to advertising campaigns for the
health care overhaul through the advocacy groups like Healthy Economies Now
and Families USA. It has spent about $1 million on similar advertisements
under its own name," the Times reports.
Big Pharma and Big Insurance want Obama-style health-care
It's not so hard to understand. "The drug makers stand to gain
millions of new customers," the Times said.
And from the Journal: "If health legislation succeeds, the
[insurance] industry would likely get a fresh batch of new customers. In
particular, many young and healthy people who currently forgo coverage would
be forced to sign up." No wonder insurers are willing to stop
"discriminating" against sick people. (Forget that the essence of insurance
is discrimination according to risk.)
Not that Big Pharma and Big Insurance like every detail of the
Democratic plan. Drug companies don't want Medicare negotiating drug
prices for good reason. If it forces drug prices down, research and
development will be discouraged. (Depending whom you believe, Obama may or
may not have agreed with the drug companies on this point.)
As for the insurance companies, they worry legitimately
that a government insurance company the so-called public option" would
drive them out of business. This isn't alarmism. It's economics. The public
option would have no bottom line to worry about and therefore could engage
in "predatory pricing" against the private insurers.
But despite these differences, the biggest companies in these
two industries are on board with "reform."
It illustrates economist Steven Horwitz's First Law of Political
Economy: "No one hates capitalism more than capitalists". In this case, big business wants to shape
and profit from what inevitably will be an interventionist health-care
reform. Can you think of the last time a major business supported a truly
free market in anything?
In light of all this, it's funny to watch Democrats and their
activist allies panic over the protests at congressional town meetings
around the country. Tools of the corporate interests! they cry. But anyone
opposing "socialized medicine" at the meeting can't be a mouthpiece for big
business because, as we've seen, big business supports government control.
Conservative groups may be encouraging people to vent their anger at
congressmen who pass burdensome legislation without even bothering to read
it, but that's no reason to insult the protestors as pawns. What's wrong
with organizations helping like-minded people to voice their opinions? Why
do Democrats, such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dismiss citizen participation as
"AstroTurf" not real grassroots only when citizens oppose the kind of
big government they favor?
They weren't so dismissive when George W. Bush was president and
people protested appropriately his accumulation of executive powers.
"When handfuls of Code Pink ladies disrupted congressional
hearings or speeches by Bush administration officials," Glenn Reynolds
writes, "it was taken as evidence that the
administration's policies were unpopular, and that the thinking parts of the
populace were rising up in true democratic fashion. … But when it happens
to Democrats, it's something different: A threat to democracy, a sign of
incipient fascism … House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls the 'Tea Party'
protesters Nazis. … "
So when lefties do it, it's called "community organizing."
When conservatives and libertarians do it, it's "AstroTurf."
Give me a break.