What do Dennis Kucinich, Ralph Nader, and Ron Paul have in common? Click on the embedded video to the left for the answer. Something interesting is happening.
Classical Liberals draw a distinction between free market economics and capitalism. The former refers to an economic system characterized by a voluntary exchange of goods and services in an environment that has minimal regulation by government. Capitalism is an economic system based on private property that is comprised of owners and workers. The owners are entitled to the profits. Free market is a concept that is primarily concerned with wealth exchange while capitalism is primarily concerned with wealth creation.
Why is this distinction important?
Most Americans support the concept of the free market as a better alternative to socialism, a system in which government is actively involved in regulating how citizens exchange goods and services. Americans want the government to stay out of private economic activity. However, many Americans have grown skeptical of capitalism because it has become corporatism, which is otherwise known as crony capitalism. They believe government is picking winners and losers and the winners are using their winnings to enrich their government benefactors. The majority of Americans are Classical Liberals, even if they seldom use that term to describe their sociopolitical outlook.
In the Occupy Wall Street protests happening in New York this week, citizens are protesting against what they consider to be corrupt financial and banking systems. Among the protesters, some are malcontents, some are nonspecific anarchists who wish to create disruption for the sake of causing trouble, and some are committed socialists who want more government intervention, not less. However, the protests are offering some themes that resonate with Conservative Americans too.
In this respect, the Occupy Wall Street protesters, who may have more affinity with Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich, and the Libertarian Tea Party Movement protesters who are acolytes of Ron Paul, have something in common. Both groups want to empower the American people by reigning in the abuses of the powerful elites. They differ about precisely what constitutes elite, and how to combat the threat, but they agree as in the embedded video, that too much power and influence has been concentrated in the hands of too few people and that needs to change.
Progressives like Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich believe government force is the only antidote to business and banking abuses. Classical Liberals like Ron Paul have a broader view and believe government, corporations, the financial system, and central banking are a modern day oligarchy that needs to be put asunder.
According to Paul, in a free market system, there would be no central bank to micromanage the voluntary exchange of goods and services among the American people. There would be no corporate welfare to pick winners. Small business, rather than corporations, would be thriving in an unregulated environment. There would be no investment banks, which make their money solely from other people’s money and provide no real intrinsic economic value. Neighborhood banks would resume their former role as the preferred choice for most Americans. Government services and government intervention into private affairs would be dramatically reduced in order to create maximum economic freedom.
A Radical Centrism based on the principles of classical liberalism that is being advanced by Ron Paul and other leading libertarian thinkers is emerging that is attempting to recapture the spirit of America contained in the above vision. Proponents of that vision share something in common with Liberal Populists who are more inclined to push for government solutions, but are nonetheless angry about the concentration of power and wealth in financial institutions.
Independent Americans have a new centrist option that takes them beyond Left vs. Right. The Occupy Wall Street’ers and the Tea Party’ers are not as different as some might assume.
Kevin Kervick is the author of the recently released book, Discovering Possibility: A Common Sense Conservative Manifesto (For Classical Liberals Too).