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Crony Capitalism: Practice (Part 2)

By Walter Donway -- September 1, 2012

Editor note: This post follows Part I’s Crony Capitalism: Principles. On Tuesday, Robert Bradley will post on cronyism in the U.S. energy industry.

Cronyism differs from industry to industry. That variation depends on the extent to which a field is regulated, on how much those regulations are subject to interpretation, and, especially, on whether government is a major payer (as in medical and hospital care) or can give or withhold the permission literally to exist (as in mining or energy production).

Today, a Wall Street firm will contribute millions to the election of Democrats and Republicans, because it dares not risk lacking “access” to the White House and Congress. The firm’s “investment” has nothing to do with innovation, production, or meeting demands of customers. It may be buying protection against political power in exactly the way a restaurant owner in Brooklyn must buy “protection” when the mob comes seeking a cut of his profits.…