By Joel Kotkin, Claremont Institute
In explaining his shift away from Maoist economics, Deng Xiao Ping, chairman of the Chinese Communist Party, described his market-oriented changes as “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” Today, American businesses, as well as the media and academic establishments that serve them, increasingly embrace what can best be described as “Chinese capitalism with American characteristics.”
A convergence between the world’s two superpowers is taking place. In the United States, as property and power further consolidate, the “diffusion of power,” so critical to democracy, erodes and autocracy develops naturally. Only players at the highest level possess the heft and the motivation to influence policy. This powerful front consists of a new alliance between large corporate powers, Wall Street, and the progressive clerisy in government and media.
Its agenda consists of several goals. On the corporate front we have the emergence of “stakeholder” capitalism, which embraces the state’s priorities implicitly and those of the progressives generally, as a way to please regulators, the woke among their employers, and, to some extent, their own consciences. In this they resemble companies in authoritarian states—like Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and today’s China—where private capital accumulation is permitted but dissent from the agreed norms of the media-government-academy, once the privilege of individuals and corporations, is now largely verboten.
Yet complicity in the West differs from fascist or corporate socialist standards in one important way. In wealthy societies, a large part of the corporate elite does not see widespread economic growth or rising living standards as a goal but as an impediment to meeting the demands of the “stakeholders,” who are largely defined by the clerisy, their orbit of nonprofits, cowed media, and their academic mentors. Profits are fine in this arrangement but only if they do not increase the material consumption of the populace while allowing new advantages to select racial or lifestyle minorities. The new corporatism is not bad for established capitalists but offers little to the middle or working classes, or, for that matter, to smaller independent businesses.
Categories: Economics/Class Relations