Dismemberment of the United States the greatest of evils.

Other misfortunes may be borne, or their effects overcome. If disastrous war should sweep our

commerce from the ocean, another generation may renew it; if it exhaust our treasury, future

industry may replenish it; if it desolate and lay waste our fields, still, under a new cultivation,

they will grow green again, and ripen to future harvests. It were but a trifle even if the walls of

yonder Capitol were to crumble, if its lofty pillars should fall, and its gorgeous decorations be all

covered by the dust of the valley. All these might be rebuilt. But who shall reconstruct the fabric

of demolished government? Who shall rear again the well-proportioned columns of

constitutional liberty? Who shall frame together the skillful architecture which unites national

sovereignty with State rights, individual security, and public prosperity? No, if these columns

fall, they will be raised not again. Like the Coliseum and the Parthenon, they will be destined to

a mournful, a melancholy immortality. Bitterer tears, however, will flow over them than were

ever shed over the monuments of Roman or Grecian art; for they will be the remnants of a more

glorious edifice than Greece or Rome ever saw, the edifice of constitutional American liberty.

Daniel Webster "The Character of Washington" February 22, 1832

Expand full comment

The Smithean free market model as originally conceived posited an interlocking mosaic or jigsaw of small local markets. Essential to that function was an approximate parity of power and influence between individual consumers and small local producers. In those days there were only small local producers. If one of these small producers failed then there would be others to rapidly take its place.

At that time communications were poor. As a result different places did things differently. For example, I once saw a French tourist advert proclaiming that there were no less than 246 varieties of local French Cheese. These evolved from the time when the horse was the only way of getting around on mud track roads. Today, in a world dominated by a handful of huge food and retail corporations and rapid communication, there would not be 246 but 6, which would be all but indistinguishable on a blind tasting.

Thus I am constantly amazed at how few people understand the difference between capitalism and corporatism. At the point at which a given market is dominated by a small handful of huge corporations, easily able to benchmark one another and indeed often overlapping in their management, research, mutual knowledge etc. to the point of constituting an oligopoly, if not a monopoly in all but name, the Smithean free market model breaks down. Product, quality and price uniformity increasingly rules.

Thus the mosaic of small local markets is replaced by a global or continental single market (as with the European Union). Add to that a huge corpus of legislation (again pace the EU) insisting that we must all do things in the same way and the difference between one brand and another becomes little more than labelling, presentation and badge engineering. And from the financial standpoint, someone sneezes in Singapore and the whole world catches pneumonia.

In any event a market is like the Cyclops. It is a one eyed beast that can only ever give a monochromatic, two dimensioned view of the world. A market cannot, of itself, yield an aesthetic or ethical result. Experience teaches us that even its powers of prediction are limited and untrustworthy. For example, and speaking from a UK context, our towns contain a wealth of old and valuable buildings which form part of our national identity. But had not campaigners fifty and sixty years ago, succeeding in arresting wholesale demolition of these areas, we would now have concrete everywhere. An aesthetic non-market force had to intervene.

One of the principle tools of Corporatism is the cost externality, Again, I am amazed at how few people would know a cost externality of one fell out of a tree and hit them on the head. The Corporation pockets the profit and dumps the downside costs onto the taxpayer. Inadequate wages have to be subsidised through the welfare system again at huge cost to the taxpayer, not to mention environmental clean-ups, infrastructural dilapidations and a host of other issues.

So where, in any part of the globe, is the new generation of trust busters willing and able to disaggregate these corporate giants and re-localise the economy? Does anyone even recognise the problem?

Expand full comment