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Reblogged:A Modern Twist on an Old Narrative

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Then, courtesy of Ayn Rand:

The best illustration of the general confusion on the subject of business and government can be found in [Stewart] Holbrook's The Story of American Railroads. On page 231, Mr. Holbrook writes:
robber_barons.jpg
Image by Bernhard Gillam, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Almost from the first, too, the railroads had to undergo the harassments of politicians and their catchpoles, or to pay blackmail in one way or another. The method was almost sure-fire; the politico, usually a member of a state legislature, thought up some law or regulation that would be costly or awkward to the railroads in his state. He then put this into the form of a bill, talked loudly about it, about how it must pass if the sovereign people were to be protected against the monster railroad, and then waited for some hireling of the railroad to dissuade him by a method as old as man. There is record of as many as thirty-five bills that would harass railroads being introduced at one sitting of one legislature.
And the same Mr. Holbrook in the same book just four pages later (pages 235-236) writes:
In short, by 1870, to pick an arbitrary date, railroads had become, as only too many orators of the day pointed out, a law unto themselves. They had bought United States senators and congressmen, just as they bought rails and locomotives -- with cash. They owned whole legislatures, and often the state courts .... To call the roads of 1870 corrupt is none too strong a term.
The connection between these two statements and the conclusion to be drawn from them has, apparently, never occurred to Mr. Holbrook. It is the railroads that he blames and calls "corrupt." Yet what could the railroads do, except try to "own whole legislatures," if these legislatures held the power of life or death over them? What could the railroads do, except resort to bribery, if they wished to exist at all? Who was to blame and who was "corrupt" -- the businessmen who had to pay "protection money" for the right to remain in business -- or the politicians who held the power to sell that right? [bold added] (from "Notes on the History of American Free Enterprise," in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, by Ayn Rand)
Now, in these lawless, rule-of-men pandemic times: The modern press has updated the narrative of blaming business for problems caused by improper government. The new version of "owning the legislature," is "Businesses [hold] sway over state reopening plans:"
As job losses accelerated, the pressure to reopen intensified.

"Attraction folks are on me like white on rice," McMaster's tourism director wrote to the head of the governor's reopening task force, describing lobbying from amusement parks, bingo halls and other entertainment venues.

Though governors often work with business leaders to craft policy, the emails offer a new window into their decisions during a critical early juncture in the nation's battle against the pandemic. Many governors chose to reopen before their states met all the nationally recommended health guidelines, which include a sustained downward rate of infection and robust testing and contact tracing.
As massive business failures across the country -- caused at least in part by governors improperly forbidding ordinary citizens from participating in normal activities -- attest, let us paraphrase Ayn Rand: What could these businesses do but attempt to 'sway' the governors who held the power of life or death over them?"

In the meantime, the reporters -- transfixed by their own scare-mongering over an avoidable disease with a well-known risk profile, and too enamored of the idea of government solving all problems to even begin to imagine the dangers of such a proposition -- breathlessly report these email records as if they are the real scandal, rather than the predictable symptom that they are.

Let us hope that the recent decision by a federal judge to the effect that the Pennsylvania governor's shutdown orders were unconstitutional is the political turning-of-the-tide we need, to have time to argue -- for starters -- for a proper and much more effective government response to any future pandemic.

-- CAV

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