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'Business Good. Government Bad.'

Bruce Luske

I just read Arthur C. Brooks' precious recent Washington Post polemic, "America's new culture war: Free enterprise vs. government control," and I want to comment on his one-size-fits all libertarian prescription for every conceivable social ill. As political scientist David Michael Green observed, it can be expressed in a bumper sticker:

"Business good. Government bad."

Please join me in repeating this line aloud twice, making sure to punctuate each rendition with a parrot's whistle.

You've got it! Simple, isn't it?

This ubiquitous "master narrative" has prevailed for over 30 years as the exact cause of our current economic meltdown and overall societal disintegration; namely, a run-amock thoroughly deregulated so-called "free market."

I want to go on record here by saying that I and virtually all Americans love Brooks' grand IDEA of huge numbers of small businesses imaginatively innovating and competing in every area of American life.

But the problem with this exceedingly attractive proposition (in the abstract) is that as an empirical matter the "Biggest Fish" (transnational corporations) have long since eaten most of the "little fish" (small and medium businesses).

The alluring libertarian dream of the "free market" no longer exists--indeed, never has existed--since the matter of which businesses thrive and expand and which do not has always been a product of governmental policy. A good historic case in point are the railroads in the 19th century.

Today's "free market" is in reality an oxymoron as a wholly owned and controlled creature (Frankenstein?) of the largest international corporations served by the federal government as the "corporate state."

A simple metaphor: The corporations are the "dog" and the federal government is the "tail." The right, Tea Partiers, their assorted allies, and a largely misled populace refuse to acknowledge and/or to understand this dominant truth of contemporary American society.

I can't think of a more poignantly compelling example than the federal government's utter dependency on the BP corporation that caused the Gulf catastrophe to control attempts to plug the gusher as well as the accompanying narrative fed to the corporate media in the attempt to "spin" the disaster in the least damaging way for BP as possible.

But it ain't gonna work this time. Now even the Gulf state Bubbas who used to fish and swim in the Gulf are starting to get it.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

Bruce Luske has been the resident sociologist at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York since 1993, and welcomes all responses to this piece -

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