Paul Ryan and free-market populism

May 20, 2010

Over at RealClearPolitics, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin further fleshes out the emerging “free-market populism” meme beginning to emerge in the GOP:

From an ideological perspective, big government can combine with big business to advance a more progressivist society. For self-described “progressives,” the agenda is straightforward: expand government; co-opt big business; direct the capital markets from Washington to pursue “social justice.” Think Fannie and Freddie by much higher orders of magnitude.

Over the past decade, the thinking has been much less clear for conservatives. Being “pro-market” has been fundamentally confused with “pro-business.” Conservatives who came to Congress to defend and promote free enterprise have often been led to believe that pathway lies in bolstering established firms as they navigate the maze of government regulations and taxes. These instincts are correct, but the implementation is often flawed. All too often, the results of these efforts have been to exacerbate crony capitalism – erecting barriers to entry against potential competitors to firms that are currently on top.

For their part, companies seeking such protection have a right to pursue their narrow self-interest; but when these actions involve reducing open competition and transparency for short term gain, they do so to the detriment of the very free enterprise system that made their success possible.

Me: I can see this manifesting in a number of ways, from attacks on corporate welfare to more explicit calls to diffuse financial power. And it would seem to be in the sweet spot of folks like Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and Pat Toomey. This is also a group that would be willing to call for radical change in the U.S. entitlement system.

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