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“How can we take you seriously when we know that the Competitive Enterprise Institute is funded by… ExxonMobil, by chemical companies, by tobacco companies, by corporations that have an interest in getting you to say what you say?”br> My answer: br>
“Because how do we take seriously National Public Radio or public television or newspapers? All of those are supported by advertisements that have economic interests in getting their messages out. Corporations are part of [CEI’s] support [as are] foundations and individuals. We accept support from [all] willing to tolerate our independence, just like NPR is willing to accept support from groups who are willing to tolerate their editorial independence. We dance with these people. We’re not married to these people. And we’ve taken positions that have lost us corporate support and we undoubtedly will in the future.”br> That distinction between working alliances and contractual mergers captures, I believe, the uneasy but critical link between free market public interest groups and the business community. Those linkages must be strengthened — not threatened.
Conservative and libertarian groups are recent arrivals to the factional wars that define America’s future. We’ve scored some important victories in the war of ideas; moreover, the concept of a “conservative intellectual” is no longer an oxymoron, if it ever was.
Yet victory in the war of ideas is not enough to restore America’s constitutional vision of a government strong enough to do what is needed, while posing minimal threat to the economic and civil liberties of the citizenry. That will require alliances among all factions that have a stake in that alternative vision to Leviathan. It must include entrepreneurs as well as conservatives.
Conservatives must challenge liberal orthodoxy in the war of ideas, but we should have no illusion that our intellectual arguments will persuade many intellectuals. As the economist Joseph Schumpeter noted long ago, the intellectuals’ envy of the entrepreneur (if we’re so moral and smart, why are they so rich?), coupled with the attraction of government power, will seduce these elites into supporting an ever-expanding centralized government. Thus, if economic liberals are to find allies, they must find them in the business world.
Thus, it is clear why statists have embraced the proposition that the only groups that business can legitimately sponsor are those opposed to business. That is a premise that we should reject, and reject proudly. Our groups should be doing more to lead business away from the rent-seeking temptations of today’s overly politicized world, to work with them to reduce the barriers that limit their wealth-creating potential. And we must do this while maintaining our integrity. We need to spend more time on the political dance floor. It is critical that business understands and respects our values and independence. It is equally important that we understand the risks they take in opposing their regulatory overseers, and the factors that lead them, too often, to seek short-term political favors.
This is our challenge. Conservative groups and our nascent business allies must find ways to improve the policies of the highly compromised world of today, while developing economic liberalization strategies that will ensure America’s future. The real danger of the current attack is that one or both of us may retreat, becoming wallflowers while the political dance moves leftward.
Such a retreat would be a betrayal not only of the world the Framers left for us, but of the world we will leave for our children.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?