A surprisingly productive meeting was held in Washington, D.C. last week. No, it wasn’t Congress. The American Sustainable Business Council presented a panel of conservative thinkers to an audience of business sustainability advocates. Sustainability is not the issue where polarized politicians and activists on opposite sides of the question might be expected to look for common ground, but this event yielded a consensus on several areas of concern, notably crony capitalism. Participants agreed that some of the most important industries in the U.S. no longer work efficiently or allow robust competition. These companies, often ones that dominate their industries, receive preferential treatment from the government in the form of tax breaks, subsidies, credits, regulatory leniency, and other favorable concessions.
While both liberals and conservatives agreed that crony capitalism is a problem for a productive economy, they didn’t agree on how to deal with it. Liberals believed that it could be controlled by government action that promotes open markets and vigorous competition. Conservatives were skeptical of government interventions that can, they argued, turn into another form of favoritism in itself. What to do? Both conservatives and liberals denounced the current hyper-partisanship in Congress that has resulted in policy gridlock. Both sides called for a more moderate Congress that better reflects the general electorate, and the common national interest. Let’s hope that there are more such low key but effective meetings of opposing minds that apply some classic American pragmatism to our national economic policy. I’m John Howell for 3BL Media.