The new culture war: Capitalism vs. Statism

Arthur C. Brooks has a great piece in today's Wall Street Journal that seeks to define a new culture war.

The battle is not over abortion or gay marriage but rather an "ethical populism" on one side represented by the Tea Party Movement and the relentless bureaucratic state on the other that is represented by the Obama administration and their collectivist impulses:

And what investments justify our leaving this gargantuan bill for our children and grandchildren to pay? Absurdities, in the view of many -- from bailing out General Motors and the United Auto Workers to building an environmentally friendly Frisbee golf course in Austin, Texas. On behalf of corporate welfare, political largess and powerful special interests, government spending will grow continuously in the coming years as a percentage of the economy -- as will tax collections.

Still, the tea parties are not based on the cold wonkery of budget data. They are based on an "ethical populism." The protesters are homeowners who didn't walk away from their mortgages, small business owners who don't want corporate welfare and bankers who kept their heads during the frenzy and don't need bailouts. They were the people who were doing the important things right -- and who are now watching elected politicians reward those who did the important things wrong.

Voices in the media, academia, and the government will dismiss this ethical populism as a fringe movement -- maybe even dangerous extremism. In truth, free markets, limited government, and entrepreneurship are still a majoritarian taste.

Brooks refers to a recent Pew Survey that shows fully 70% of the American people prefer the free market - even if it means occasional ups and downs in the economy.

The lie that these interventions are only "temporary" and that once the economy is back on its feet, the government will relinquish control is becoming more obvious every day. The taxpayer is in for a 50% stake in what is going to be a much smaller, less competitive General Motors. I don't know about you but I never wanted stock in GM, did you? But here we have ownership being crammed down our throats by a government literally in bed with the UAW and whose intervention was done solely to save union jobs.

And once they get started taking over the finance industry, we can legitimately ask, where will it end?

The lines are drawn between those who think that this is how a modern state should be organized and those who believe what has worked extraordinarily well for 220 years is good enough if we'd just let the market pick and choose the winners and losers.

Bring it on.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky