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Roger L. Simon

Is Chicago China?

May 19th, 2010 - 7:49 am

“Chicago, Chicago, it’s a wonderful town…” But it’s also China.

Say what? No, I’m not talking about the Szechuan restaurants, some of which are undoubtedly pretty good (I didn’t try them). But on my recent trip to the Windy City for the Heartland’s Institute’s climate conference, I began to be struck by the similarity in system between the City of Chicago and the (if you wanna call it that) People’s Republic of China.

Forget communism, socialism or whatever, they are both perfected examples of crony capitalism. In Chicago and Beijing, Shanghai, etc., it’s not what you know, but who you know. And it’s been like that for a long time.

Now Chicago is not as brutal as China, obviously, but in some ways it’s worse. Someone named Daley has been the city’s mayor since somewhere in the Early Paleolithic Age. Chairman Mao didn’t last as long. Being a Daley in Chicago is equivalent to being a Medici in Florence – with less danger of a violent death. The patronage system seems to extend from somewhere a few miles south of Canada to the northern reaches of Kentucky. Everyone here appears to accept this as part of the game.

Last weekend the Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about the three hundred people who rule China and are connected by their own special super private line of “red phones.” That could be Chicago. In fact, they should adopt it here. Obama and Rahm Emanuel could be linked in with David Axelrod and Bill Ayers. Maybe it should be red Blackberrys.

Now I’m being sarcastic here, but I think this is indicative of the serious problem we’re facing now. Crony capitalism can work to a point. Chicago still looks better than LA at the moment. But the strains are starting to show. Crony capitalism is a dependency system. It has obvious economic weaknesses that stem from its obsessive need for control. And now it’s all about to crack with unions, pensions, too many people working for the city and state, etc., etc.

Nobody can pay for it anymore. But you can be sure of one thing. People named Daley (some of them anyway) will not starve.

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