The Marching Song Remains the Same
"If only all of Rome had just one neck."
-From Gore Vidal's Caligula screenplay (1979)
Megan McArdle reiterated her ancient call to eliminate corporate taxes yesterday. It's a good column, even if she did forget to mention that corporations don't actually pay any taxes. But what most intrigued me was this bit from the end of her column:
If we really hate corporate power, we'd probably want to look at the things that entrench it--like heavy regulatory burdens that are more easily borne by large, powerful companies. But this is not an argument that ever gets much traction outside of some economists, and the libertarian community. Which makes me think that the corporate income tax is largely expressive--we like policies which penalize corporations, particularly big ones, regardless of their actual effect on corporate power.
"We" like these policies, as Megan alludes, because they make us feel good. Not because, as she says explicitly, they actually do any good. But why do they make us feel good? Because the progressive left has for years owned the moral narrative on corporations. Big bad corporations are bad, are must be reined in by big good government.
But how does the progressive left really feel about big business? Ten years ago, Michael Moore accidentally let that cat out of the bag -- and then promptly ate it. This story is so old I have only a cached version of a Free Republic repost of an Arcata Eye story, which, for whatever reason, has disappeared from the Eye's servers. But here you go:
Asked about Arcata's pending cap on pattern restaurant expansion, [Rotund filmmaker Michael] Moore - widely recognized as a corporate antagonist - again confounded expectations. "Where will you eat?" he asked. "Can't you have at least one Jamba Juice?"
Why the love for the juice giant? Here's why:
You know in my town the small businesses that everyone wanted to protect? They were the people that supported all the right-wing groups. They were the Republicans in the town, they were in the Kiwanas, the Chamber of Commerce - people that kept the town all white. The small hardware salesman, the small clothing store salespersons, Jesse the Barber who signed his name three different times on three different petitions to recall me from the school board. F**k all these small businesses - f**k 'em all! Bring in the chains. The small businesspeople are the rednecks that run the town and suppress the people. F**k 'em all. That's how I feel."
Mikey likes Jamba Juice because Jamba Juice is 750 juice shops -- with just the one neck for him to squeeze. Racism? School boards? Republicans? None of it matters in the particulars. Progressives used to be for racism, when they thought eugenics was the path to power. And voter fraud is perhaps the oldest progressive game. Any excuse will do, so long as the goal remains in sight: Stasis. Big government and big business, all wrapped up together to lock out rivals to both.
It should be noted that stasis is essentially feudal. And we're the serfs.
Let's go back to a column of mine from 2003, called "Soft Fascism." There are two key bits:
Forget Mussolini’s silly wars in Africa and Greece. Forget the horrible splendor of the Nuremburg rallies. Forget, if for only a moment, the Holocaust.
Instead, remember how fascism worked as a political system...
Businesses were seen as semi-private cogs in the government machine – useful for producing jobs, handing out tax dollars to favored individuals, earning kickbacks to favored politicians, and making the tools of war. Business was at once a means of getting and distributing money, and media businesses were useful and tolerated so long as they spewed propaganda, or at least hewed to the Party line.
Companies that weren’t useful didn’t get the juiciest government contracts, and they might just find they had serious labor issues coming up. Further recalcitrance could lead to more severe means of correction, best left to the imagination.
And then this, describing how much of Europe still functions today:
I call it “soft fascism.” Europe doesn’t have any concentration camps – but who needs those, when it’s just as easy to simply ban “offensive” speech, as France has done? Who needs to vest all power in one man, when one million men (bureaucrats, really) in Brussels can make the trains run on time? Who needs to wage war for resources, if you can buy off Middle East dictators for their oil? Who needs lebensraum when populations are declining? Who needs Joseph Goebbels, when you’ve got the BBC? Who needs a single political party, when all the many existing ones pretty much all agree that the way things have been done, is the way things should be done?
Now you tell me in which direction this country is moving. In small steps, these last few decades -- and in a couple of giant leaps these last three years.
They'll call it "consensus" and "community" and "moving together" and "shared responsibility." But what those nice words really mean is: There's no room for outcasts, upstarts -- or dissent.
All of Rome can have just one neck. It's simply a matter of concentrating the power -- er, a matter of gathering the arteries -- so that they may be squeezed by just a few hands.