Editor note: This post will be followed tomorrow by Part II: Crony Capitalism: Practice. On Tuesday, Robert Bradley will post on cronyism in the U.S. energy industry.
To the great economists of free trade and free markets, capitalism meant laissez faire: “Let us compete free of government help or hindrance.” To Adam Smith and David Ricardo, to Ludwig von Mises and Milton Friedman, laissez faire in the phrase “laissez faire capitalism” was redundant.
But today, opponents of capitalism such as leftist MIT Professor Noam Chomsky and sociologist Jane Jacobs believe that “crony capitalism” is the redundant phrase. They believe that capitalism by its nature involves corruption of the political process to favor one enterprise over another.
What about the American public? Earlier this year, a poll by the Rasmussen firm revealed that 39 percent of those responding consider ours to be a system of “crony capitalism.”…