Sharing a Hymnal: Hawley and Sanders

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Phillip Wegman of RealClear Politics, who notes that anti-corporate rhetoric usually comes from Democrats, reports that Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) is about to introduce a bill to overturn the Citizens United decision that protects corporate free speech in elections.

His closest ally in the effort? None other than socialist Bernie Sanders.

Notably, Hawley uses ESG as his excuse, but his solution is 180 degrees wrong:

Image by Michael Maasen, via Unsplash, license.
The Hawley project then can perhaps be best described as an effort to export traditional conservative skepticism of big government to the realm of big corporations. “What we find, and what lawsuits like the Missouri v. Biden case exposed, is that big corporations and big government work hand in hand,” he said referencing the federal case that found the White House lobbied social media companies to remove content critical of the administration.
For starters, this ignores the fundamental difference between the government and all other social institutions, namely that only the government can legally wield the retaliatory force of the citizens.

If this force is being misused -- as it clearly was when Biden jawboned the social media companies -- the the solution is to get the government to stop doing so, not to blame the companies or start pretending that they are arms of the government.

On top of that, Ayn Rand debunked this kind of rhetoric decades ago when she discussed the then- (and apparently also now-) common confusion between economic and political power:
A disastrous intellectual package-deal, put over on us by the theoreticians of statism, is the equation of economic power with political power. You have heard it expressed in such bromides as: “A hungry man is not free,” or “It makes no difference to a worker whether he takes orders from a businessman or from a bureaucrat.” Most people accept these equivocations—and yet they know that the poorest laborer in America is freer and more secure than the richest commissar in Soviet Russia. What is the basic, the essential, the crucial principle that differentiates freedom from slavery? It is the principle of voluntary action versus physical coercion or compulsion.
Hawley knows he can get away with this misconception, but even he knows -- since there are still a few remnants of respect for businessmen within his party -- he has to dehumanize "big business" to get away with attacking corporate property and speech rights.

This is what he is doing with his disingenuous appeal to whatever mistaken apprehension the Founders might have had about what he calls "the corporate form."

Ayn Rand's student, Leonard Peikoff, addressed this directly:
A corporation is a union of human beings in a voluntary, cooperative endeavor. It exemplifies the principle of free association, which is an expression of the right to freedom. Any attributes which corporations have are attributes (or rights) which the individuals have—including the right to combine in a certain way, offer products under certain terms, and deal with others according to certain rules, for instance, limited liability. [bold added]
It should be clear from the above that any attempt to "limit" corporate speech, such as by prohibiting financing of political campaigns, is a violation of the property rights, speech rights, and the right to free association of every single person involved in any corporation.

This attack is wrong on so many levels, and is a massive attack on the individual rights of millions of Americans all at once.

Return government once again to its proper scope. Make it unable to loot people, to order us around, and to pick winners and losers. Then, the need to bribe politicians in every election cycle will disappear.

It is a revealing shame that Josh Hawley's response to America's plight is to even further aggrandize the improper powers her government has assumed over the past century and a half.

-- CAV

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