In tomorrow’s episode of John Stossel’s new show on Fox Business, he will address the question, “Who is Wesley Mouch?” in speaking to the parallels between Atlas Shrugged and contemporary America. As one might expect, in my view it seems as if almost all businessmen (given their predilection towards using government to destroy markets to their own advantage) in one way or another embody the qualities of Wesley Mouch.
One exception who will be on Stossel’s program is John Allison, an executive at BB&T Bank, who staunchly opposed TARP, has repeatedly refused to use the law to plunder the property of others and as one might guess is an ardent Austrian-school libertarian. In a scene reminiscent of the smoke-filled rooms of Atlas Shrugged, Allison divulged at an NYU lecture this past fall that the Feds threatened to go in and audit any bank that wouldn’t take government funds, forcing healthy banks to comply so as to cover for the fact that the government was only propping up a select few sick ones (at the expense of the solvent I might add).
In response to Stossel’s call in the aforehyperlinked column for suggestions for a follow-up show on “crony capitalism,” I posted:
If you want to talk about crony capitalism, it may pay to have Burton Fulsom who wrote “The Myth of the Robber Barons” on the program. I think the key is to delineate between political entrepreneurs and market entrepreneurs, something which he does astutely in that book.
Political entrepreneurs seek to use government decrees to profit, largely by cartelization, monopoly advantages and other barriers to entry, while market entrepreneurs generally seek to win profits in the market by merit – by producing the best product at the cheapest price.
More generally, the Mouch problem lies in the fact that while initially businessmen extol the virtues of little regulation, low barriers to entry and minimal governmental interference generally, once they become successful, out of self-interest they support any and all legislation that will cement their position in the market. They support all of those things anathema to the free market that they had used to their advantage in the first place.
This is akin to the economic plight of America as a whole. While up until the early 20th century (though some libertarians will argue that it was really only up until the time of Lincoln), America functioned under a largely laissez-faire economy, with the wealth and progress generated by this economy, we forgot about the virtues that led to our success and rewarded those tending towards failure. We created a welfare state from the riches of a relatively free state, throwing under the bus the very principles that elevated to us to our position as a great nation.