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Yet another weird SF fan
 

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thomas Franks Touches Reality and Runs Away

Thomas Frank is starting to show a nodding acquaintance with reality:

It would be nice if we could blame all this on Republican administrations and be done with it. But it isn't so simple. Goldman Sachs, to name one protagonist in a recent version of the story, has always had prominent friends in both parties. It was the Clinton administration, with its scheme to "reinvent government," that made consensus wisdom out of the idea that markets should be the model for the state; it was the big thinkers of Democratic centrism who shunned adversarial regulatory strategies in favor of a more "entrepreneurial" approach.

The phenomenon I am describing is familiar to the point of nausea. The economists have a technical term for it, "regulatory capture." Our Gilded Age ancestors were fairly obsessed with it.

He then takes leave of his senses:

But today's consensus commentators, steeped as they are in the orthodoxy of markets, tend to regard the notion of regulatory capture as a conspiracy theory.

Saaay what? The term “regulatory capture” (and its near synonym “rent seeking”) are familiar enough to us wingnuts that I've used them to rate think tanks and berate self-congratulatory environmentalists.

I suspect Thomas Frank's excuse for regulatory capture (it's all the centrists' fault!) is an example of a phenomenon I mentioned a few years ago:

A few years ago, I posted that fundamentalism makes it easier to for a religious tradition to backtrack and give up mistakes. I just realized that the ideology of opposing profits fulfills a similar role in secular leftist ideologies. Any regulation or government program will make some people rich. If a government program formerly admired by the left turns out to be a mistake, opposition to profit makes it possible to blame everything on “the rich” and backtrack without admitting that yesterday's leftists were mistaken.

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