I just listened to a broadcast featuring a scholar from the American Enterprise Institute, one of the Koch-funded think tanks like Arizona’s Goldwater Institute and various ASU free market institutes. On this broadcast, the scholar claimed that the U.S. is protected from potential Fascism thanks to the conviction and dogma of a conservatism that preaches small government and low taxes. He claimed that conservatives would never support a growth in government power that embodies fascism.
I think he is being duplicitous. The conservative movement, as paid for and promoted by a network of heirs to old wealth, has not objected when the government arrests minorities for minor infractions, bars gay men and women from government-sanctioned marriage, or makes women’s decisions about their bodies illegal. They have stood by and encouraged state legislatures and governors to interfere in myriad instances with individual choices about sexual issues that are essentially determined by human nature.
Our own state legislature tries to impose its doctrine upon city governments when local officials would create a safer and cleaner environment, better wages for the poorest workers, and even what is taught in local schools.
What our conservative friends insist is off limits to government at any level is capitalism. Mainstream economics teaches a concept of externalities. That means that while your primary purpose as an oil refinery is to produce gasoline, your pipes might leak deadly fumes, your oil suppliers might lose a rig or two in the Gulf of Mexico and kill the fish. Your timber company might produce cheaper wood products for homes but ruin watersheds. The pollution caused is harmful to life. Who is to pay to clean up the accidents/externalities?
Is it not prudent to prevent as much risk as possible since the taxpayer seems to get stuck with the bills for cleanup? That is the rationale for regulation by government.
The crux of the free market theology is that business comes first. Government is secondary and applies mainly to lazy idlers. Capitalism can be an engine of prosperity, but it is not a substitute for a government that protects all citizens from unnecessary harm. Conservatives … carve out freedom from a social compact and demand exemption from responsibility for harm. … I am not comforted.
HARRIET H. YOUNG
Originally published in Arizona Daily Sun as a Letter to the Editor on December 18, 2016