Me Then, Hillary Now: Progressives Are Too Conservative to Accept Capitalism

Coyote, in Forbes, December 2010 (excerpts):

My contention is that what drives most progressives, at a very fundamental level, is a deep conservatism.  Of course, most “progressives” would freak if they were called conservative, but what I mean by conservative in this context is not donate-to-Jesse-Helms capital-C Conservative but fearful of change and uncomfortable with uncertainty conservative.

Because capitalism is based so completely on individual decision-making, because its operation is inherently chaotic, and because its rewards can’t possibly be divided equally and still be “rewards”, progressives are hugely uncomfortable with it.  Ironically, though progressives want to posture at being “dynamic”, it turns out that capitalism is in fact too dynamic for them.  Industries rise and fall, jobs are won and lost, recessions give way to booms.  Progressives want comfort and certainty.  They want to lock things down the way they are. They want to know that such and such job will be there tomorrow and next decade, and will always pay at least X amount.  Which is why, in the end, progressives are all statists, because only a government with totalitarian powers can bring the order and certainty and control of individual decision-making that they crave..

Progressive elements in this country have always tried to freeze commerce, to lock this country’s economy down in its then-current patterns.  Progressives in the late 19th century were terrified the American economy was shifting from agriculture to industry.  They wanted to stop this, to cement in place patterns where 80-90% of Americans worked on farms.  I, for one, am glad they failed, since for all of the soft glow we have in this country around our notion of the family farmer, farming was and can still be a brutal, dawn to dusk endeavor that never really rewards the work people put into it....

I am sure, if asked, most  progressives would profess to desire iPod’s and cures for cancer.  But they want these without the incentives that drive men to invent them, and the disruption to current markets and competitors and employees that their introduction entails.  They want to end poverty without wealth creation, they want jobs without employers, they want cars without unemployment for buggy whip makers.

Hillary Clinton in July, 2015:  via Instapundit

In her first major economic policy address of the 2016 campaign, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton raised questions about the effect that companies like Uber and Airbnb are having on American workers. . . .

Later in the speech, Clinton vowed to “crack down on bosses who exploit employees by misclassifying them as contractors” — a possible reference to something like the recent California Labor Commission decision that threatens to undermine Uber’s business model.

To be sure, Clinton does not want to destroy the sharing economy. She acknowledged that “these trends are real” and “none is going away.” But she may believe that, with the right application of political muscle, the new economy can be forced to conform with the antiquated blue social model — that is, the midcentury vision of steady, regulated, unionized employment with generous benefits.

As we have argued again and again, this notion is unrealistic. Like it or not, this 1950s model of economic organization is breaking down, and has been for several decades, thanks to globalization, demographic changes, technological innovation, and other trends that simply cannot be reversed. Measures like the California decision are futile and counterproductive. We should treat the emergence of a more entrepreneurial, dynamic landscape as an opportunity to be engaged with productively, not a danger to be henpecked by regulations better suited to the last century.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    " that is, the midcentury vision of steady, regulated, unionized employment with generous benefits"

    vision->delusion

  • slocum

    This is the argument that Virginia Postrel made in "The Future and Its Enemies" (which I strongly recommend):

    http://www.amazon.com/The-FUTURE-AND-ITS-ENEMIES/dp/0684862697

  • Mike Powers

    Their argument is that people are very bad at calculating risk, and that personal economic uncertainty is such a risk as to drive irrational, growth-limiting behavior; putting money in the sock drawer rather than taking it to a bank, insisting on driving a broken-down car (that's paid for!) instead of taking out a loan to buy a new, more-efficient and more-reliable one. And most psychological research backs this up.

    So, the argument goes, economic uncertainty is bad, because while there are (some) big winners, the risk of being a big loser looms so large that people do dumb things to avoid it. And people scrabbling and scrimping to Not Lose The House aren't going to go around inventing iPods.

    Steve Jobs might have taken a risk, but it wasn't *his* risk. It was everyone else at Apple who'd get it in the neck if his gamble didn't pay off. His material needs were covered.

  • MJ

    The problem is that most employees in the affected industries, including Uber, would not be any less certain about their employment prospects if they were classified as regular employees rather than contractors. I also doubt that if you asked Uber's drivers, that they would self-identify as being "exploited'. Many are thankful for the opportunity and accepting of their terms of employment. I also suspect that most understand Uber's longer-term plans to move toward use of autonomous vehicles rather than relying on drivers.

  • MJ

    To be sure, Clinton does not want to destroy the sharing economy. She
    acknowledged that “these trends are real” and “none is going away.” But
    she may believe that, with the right application of political muscle,
    the new economy can be forced to conform with the antiquated blue social
    model — that is, the midcentury vision of steady, regulated, unionized
    employment with generous benefits.

    Remember also that in 2008 Hilary jumped on the bandwagon in support of a "gas tax holiday" to combat rising gas prices. When nearly all economists (Krugman included) publicly panned the idea, she stubbornly doubled down and insisted that it could work if "we did it right".

    Behold, the Woman of System.

  • Not Sure

    The way to "do it right" is to never, ever, under any circumstances, give power to people who think they can "do it right".

  • SamWah

    Lessee here; Anyone believe her? Anyone? Beuhller?