2016 Presidential Election: Battle of the Crony Capitalists

I am not sure that many politicians are good on this score, but Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are likely as bad as it gets on crony capitalism.  Forget their policy positions, which are steeped in government interventionism in the economy, but just look at their personal careers.  Each have a long history of taking advantage of political power to enrich themselves and their business associates.  I am not sure what Cruz meant when he said "New York values", but both Trump and Clinton are steeped in the New York political economy, where one builds a fortune through political connections rather than entrepreneurial vigor.   Want to build a new parking lot next to your casino or start up a new energy firm -- you don't bother with private investors or arms length transactions, you go to the government.

With that in mind, I particularly liked Don Buudreaux's quote of the day:

First, we labor under a ubiquitous threat of being shackled by crony capitalists.  [Adam] Smith wondered how internally stable a free market could be in the face of a tendency for its political infrastructure to decay into crony capitalism.  (The phrase “crony capitalism” is not Smith’s.  I use it to refer to various of Smith’s targets: mercantilists who lobby for tariffs and other trade barriers, monopolists who pay kings for a license to be free from competition altogether, and so on.)  Partnerships between big business and big government lead to big subsidies, monopolistic licensing practices, and tariffs.  These ways of compromising freedom have been and always will be touted as protecting the middle class, but their true purpose is (and almost always will be) to transfer wealth and power from ordinary citizens to well-connected elites


  1. Mercury:

    Once the government is large and intrusive enough you pretty much have to engage in crony capitalism if you want to be successful on any large scale.

    This is implicit in Obama's world: that you can only be successful by the grace of government or if you have been lucky enough to have escaped government's many roadblocks or been born with some quality that the government has not yet figured out how to seize and redistribute. Hard work and determination mean nothing.

    Here is our president last week equipping a new class of black college graduates wisdom they can use to succeed in the world:

    "That's a pet peeve of mine: People who have been successful and don’t realize they've been lucky. That God may have blessed them; it wasn’t nothing you did. So don’t have an attitude."

  2. MJ:

    That Obama quote is nauseating. What a horrible and ethically corrosive thing to tell an idealistic group of young college students, especially black students.

  3. MJ:

    The Man and Woman of System.

  4. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    The Crony Capitalism of both candidates is one of many features that would induce me to search for a third choice. But for my vote to matter, I need to choose between the two. This November, the choice will not be as hard as the action itself. It will be torture for me to pull the lever for Trump . . . especially when I see Hillary as being more presidential and more reasonable in most situations. However, I do see Trump as respecting the Constitution more; plus, he is more likely to appoint Supreme Court justices that respect the constitution, liberty and limited government. Therefore, Trump will get my vote.

  5. joe:

    Appoint supreme court justices like his ultra liberal sister?

    With Hillary - its a guarantee that her appointments will be very left wing - with little or no respect for the constitution. Read Ginsburg's plurality opinion in the first ACA case. Her basic rationale was that progressive policy is good, therefore any constituional defects are okay since the policy is good.

    With Trump - you have a 50/50 chance of getting some moderates on the bench, virtually no chance of a conservative and 50/50 chance of getting appointments comparable to hillary' s likely appointments.

  6. Not Sure:

    "But for my vote to matter, I need to choose between the two."

    The only way your vote will matter is if it's the vote that breaks a tie. Otherwise, it's no different than another drop of water in the ocean.

  7. John Moore:

    I don't see the odds of a conservative at near zero. Trump will face pressures that likely would lead to one or more conservative justices. Hillary will not.

  8. Andrew_M_Garland:

    A supporter of capitalism should avoid using the word "capitalism", a slur coined by Karl Marx. He should explain that capitalism means "individual freedom to work, cooperate, and exchange".

    The average person interprets the term "crony capitalism" as a defect of capitalism. The immediate thought is to increase the regulation of capitalism to eliminate this antisocial and illegal behavior. Ironically, the thought is to increase regulation and the power of government.

    Instead, we should speak of government corruption and a system designed by politicians for taking bribes. The government is a socialist institution. Bribing, Cronyism, and Crony Socialism naturally expand with bigger and more powerful government.

    Freedom to work, cooperate, and exchange is incompatible with politicians taking bribes and handing out favors under the color of law. That is not part of individual freedom of association, trade, and personal liberty.

    Every discussion of "crony capitalism" convinces some people that individual freedom and light regulation is a corrupt lie. People should be reminded that political bribes are enabled by corrupt government.

    We could eliminate bribes and favors. It should continue to be major crime for a politician to accept a bribe, but no crime to offer or deliver a bribe. Politicians would not accept bribes for fear of being exposed. Current practice is usually to protect the politician and prosecute the offerer. This keeps corrupt politicians safe.

  9. Cardin Drake:

    I don't know that Trump is a crony capitalist. There is no doubt that he has engaged in it as a private citizen, but he really didn't have a choice if he wanted to succeed in business. As a candidate he has spoken out against it. As a businessman, he knows the game is rigged, and as a politician, I hope he will fight against it. Trump has no need to enrich himself further. We can be 100% sure that Hillary will be much more of the same when it comes to cronyism.

  10. MJ:

    Why would your vote matter any less if you cast it for a third party?

  11. Bloke in North Dorset:

    I've recently started listening to the excellent Wake Up Call Podcast and they've just done one on corny capitalism which is well worth a listen. http://www.wakeupcallpodcast.com/crony-capitalism/