Tim Carney on Big Business, Big Government and Liberty - click to enlarge

Is big business a danger to economic liberty? That was the question posed at a recent event hosted by the Mackinac Center that took place April 14 in Grand Rapids.

The answer is a resounding “yes,” according to Tim Carney, a columnist with the Washington Examiner. Carney, who was the guest speaker of the day, said that larger corporations have increasingly been teaming up with government at both the state and national level.

Consider the “bulb ban,” where Congress essentially outlawed the incandescent light bulb. That was done at the behest of companies making fluorescent bulbs. It’s debatable which one is better, Carney said, but it shouldn’t be a centralized government in Washington making that decision for everyone.

Transportation, energy sources, agriculture, technology – in all of these areas and more, big business is lobbying for special favors from government. Under what Carney calls “Obamanomics,” where the federal government has a stronger role redistributing money to favored businesses, crony capitalism has gotten much more prevalent.

In Michigan’s “lost decade,” the state government was a leader in special subsidy deals. But the positive economic results did not follow.

There may be hope, however. Carney said there is a coalition of congress members and senators in Washington as well as a host of free-market, conservative and left-leaning groups that are pushing back. But there is a lot of damage to undo and big fights loom in the near future, like the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank that gives special favors, mostly to a select few corporations. Congress is currently debating  its reauthorization.

Carney said that conservatives and believers in limited government should be very concerned. Business groups hold powerful sway, especially with Republican politicians who must decide whether they will favor the short-term approach of divvying government funds or the long-term approach of favoring the free enterprise system.

That’s the battle taking place today. And that is why the Mackinac Center has fought select business tax credits and subsidies, against Republican and Democratic politicians alike, since its founding.