Acton Institute Powerblog

Ripped Off by Business and Government

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According to a superficial view of politics held by some, “conservative” tends to imply “pro-business.” This identification conceals a number of crucial distinctions. In my view, one essential component of conservatism is advocacy of limited government. And genuine advocates of limited government do not embrace “pro-business” policies if that means government intervention in the market to aid particular companies or industries or to penalize others.

Burton Folsom, in his important 1987 book (reprinted at least twice since), The Myth of the Robber Barons, applied this insight to the history of American business, distinguishing between real entrepreneurs and business executives who used state power to promote their interests.

The distinction is given a contemporary treatment in a new book, The Big Ripoff, by Timothy Carney. “This book shows,” he writes in the book’s first chapter, “that the two most powerful characters in America—big business and big government—are in cahoots. You are their target.” Sounds as though it might provide some thrills to those for whom expanding government is as scary as any horror flick.

Kevin Schmiesing Kevin Schmiesing, Ph.D., is a research fellow for the research department at the Acton Institute. He is a frequent writer on Catholic social thought and economics, is the author of American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895-1955 (Edwin Mellen Press, 2002) and is most recently the author of Within the Market Strife: American Catholic Economic Thought from Rerum Novarum to Vatican II (Lexington Books, 2004). Dr. Schmiesing holds a Ph.D. in American history from the University of Pennsylvania, and a B.A. in history from Franciscan University ofSteubenville. Author of Within the Market Strife and American Catholic Intellectuals, 1895—1955 (2002), he serves as Book Review Editor for the Journal of Markets & Morality. He is also executive director of CatholicHistory.net.

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