Thursday, April 11, 2019

Pete Buttigieg on "capitalism"

Mayor Pete Buttigieg said this on Meet the Press over the weekend, in response to Chuck Todd's question about whether he's a "capitalist":

Sure, yeah. I think, look, America is a capitalist society. But — it's gotta be democratic capitalism. And that part's really important, and it's slipping away from us. In other words, when capitalism comes into tension with democracy, which is more important to you? I believe democracy is more important. And when you have capitalism capturing democracy, when you have the kind of regulatory capture where powerful corporations are able to arrange the rules for their benefit, that's not real capitalism. If you want to see what happens when you have capitalism without democracy, you can see it very clearly in Russia. It turns into crony capitalism, and that turns into oligarchy. So, I know the temptation, especially for the commentariat, is to kind of align everybody as dots on a spectrum, but that's not how most voters think.
He largely seems to be associating the word "capitalism" with "regulatory capture," i.e. incumbent businesses colluding with government to keep other businesses down. The phrase "crony capitalism" is also not really about free-market capitalism, but about big government interfering with businesses. (The distinction is laid out here — scroll down for a concise explanation of crony capitalism.) Buttigieg seems to realize all that when he says "that's not real capitalism." And yet, I'm wary of this rhetorical device of associating the word "capitalism" with things that have more to do with big government than free markets.

Here's the whole video of Buttigieg's Meet the Press interview, which I've cued to start at this part of the discussion (9:50):

(The photo at the top of this post is from a 404 page on Pete Buttigieg's campaign website.)