Elizabeth Warren and Democratic Socialism

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For some reason, Sanders vs. Trump felt interesting, whereas Warren vs. Trump feels depressing. Clinton vs. Trump just felt boring, though it did not have to be. If Clinton had followed the politician’s rule – run as if you are two points behind – she might be president now. As it is, the Democrats’ lefty leaders do not look like promising opponents.

I talked with a friend today, who referred to the Northeast’s trio of democratic socialists – Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasia-Cortez – as wingnuts. I commented, “Not all progressives are wingnuts.” If he had challenged me with, “Name one,” I probably would have tried to think of someone who does not have the statist instincts of these three.

I talked with a friend today, who referred to the Northeast’s democratic socialists as wingnuts. I commented, “Not all progressives are wingnuts.”

Along that line, Kevin Harrison and Matthew Yglesias have a disagreement over the significance of Warren’s Accountable Capitalism Act. Harrison says Warren wants to ‘nationalize’ large American business corporations. Yglesias says Harrison has mischaracterized Warren’s proposal, since she does not seek nationalization at all. Then Yglesias lists key provisions of Warren’s bill to support his contention, and I think, “How is that not nationalization?”

It does come down to how you define the term. If you think of the U. K.’s national health service, you may hold that as a simple or pure model of nationalization. The state makes all health care decisions, owns all assets, administers the service, hires and pays employees, funds the operation, plans for its future, keeps the books, buys supplies, and so on. If that is what one means by nationalization, then Warren’s plan is not that.

If, however, nationalization means the federal government controls corporate governance, because it grants the corporation permission to do business, and writes the corporation’s charter, then Warren’s plan certainly means nationalization of all U. S. business corporations with revenue of one billion or more per year. Yglesias and Harrison merely disagree about the meaning of nationalization. They do not disagree about the provisions of Warren’s legislation.

I can tell you one thing, in a global economy, Warren’s proposals compete with Trump’s trade policies for lack of wisdom.

I can tell you one thing, in a global economy, Warren’s proposals compete with Trump’s trade policies for lack of wisdom. One would not want to call them ‘batty’ too blithely, as a critic would say we bandy that term at forceful women. One does not say, ‘She persisted,’ either. For a politician who argues as Warren does, I doubt her critics need to regulate their words too closely. She can handle herself quite well.

So far, Yglesias and Harrison have not expressed any differences of view about the meaning of ‘batty’. If you think business corporations ought to answer to government officials, Warren’s legislation seems a good way to go about that. If you think business corporations ought to answer to their owners, her proposals are terrible. They separate ownership from responsibility, and make corporate directors accountable to non-owners.

Perhaps Trump wanted to build a tower in Moscow so he could escape New York’s building regulations. If you want a good deal, pay Vladimir Putin to grant you a charter to do business in Russia. You can be one of his oligarchs.


Postscript

Here’s another thought, about whether government ought to grant corporations permission to do business:

Warren’s proposals give government officials authority over corporate by-laws, and over distribution of profits. They also specify requirements for apportionment of seats on the corporation’s board of directors. Does authority like that fit your definition of nationalization?

Warren’s proposals extend an invitation to the country: here is my vision for business affairs. I would like to lead Democrats – and the country if you elect me president – toward corporate responsibility. Will you follow me?


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