America First! and the Mega-Corporation

by LF (6/3/00)

My Mom's cousin Pat worked for Ford Aerospace. Did you know that Ford had an aerospace division? I sure as hell didn't. But apparently the lure of gargantuan federal bucks with minimal oversight and low expectations when it came to results proved way too tempting to a company which otherwise should've kept its focus on making better automobiles.

Fact is, bloated corporations grew out of the pungent garden planted by massive government. Market discipline? In our brave new world? Hardly.

Businesses exist to make money. Now, you've probably been raised to believe that that simple motivation is either base or downright evil. But the market is totally agnostic ethics-wise. And guess what? Adam Smith's "invisible hand" works exactly as advertised when left alone: As long as profit maximazation takes place in a system of free exchanges, consumers (i.e., us) benefit. Unfortunately, as soon as companies are able to finagle profits by purchasing politicians, well, all sorts of somethings have got to start slipping.

In the vast majority of cases, corporations don't get taxpayer cash funneled directly into their coffers. But legislation aimed at closing-out potential competitors, sweetheart deals, and helpful programs promoting some nebulously-defined "common good" have much the same effect.

Mega-corporations exist in modern democracies because of their inherent advantages in an era of unconstrained government. Contributing mightily to candidates and maintaining huge flocks of lawyers able to wrangle piles of legislation into desirable shapes reaps numerous benefits.

About a year back, the Feds handed the broadcast networks a huge plumb in the form of a big chunk of previously-unused radio spectra, in the name of promoting the spiraling boondoggle of HDTV. If sold on an open market, slicing up that airspace could have commanded prices at least in the tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (remember deficit reduction?) from all sorts of communications industries. But those losers couldn't promise Senators pre-election face time on Sunday talk shows. So they got to suck the pipe.

Without Washington in its pocket, if a food company decides to maintain pineapple plantations in politically-unstable foreign countries, it'd have to eat any losses brought about by local guerillas. However, in an endlessly pliable political environment, it can demand that Uncle Sammy slaughter the pesky rebels and set up a more tractable local regime. Ask folks from Central America or the Philippines which course the US took, if you don't already know.

Please, just remember those examples the next time you run into some bozo going on and on about the horrors engendered by a free market. We ain't got one, you see? What we have is rule by Big Government and Pals, with nothing as annoying as a Constitution left to hinder them. So if you ask politicians to "rein-in" business, they will. To their even further advantage.

I'm not saying that subsidizing hernia supports and dumping millions into low-impact tent peg research lead directly to death camps. But a government that can do absolutely anything that sounds like a good idea by any means deemed necessary won't find any impediments in its way if the notion of gassing funny-talking immigrants suddenly surges in the polls.

The only way to stop the goodie train is to curtail the ability of those in power to distribute favors.

An interesting guide to past attempts to do just that can be found in America First! (available from, a fantastic resource for remaindered books). Author Bill Kauffman

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