Still Puzzled by This One

Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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16 Responses

  1. Rufus F. says:

    See, all I think Brooks is saying here is that we can bash BP all we want, but they’re still on our side, which he calls democratic capitalism. Also that the state capitalist oil industries are tied in with a lot of state gangsterism. Both of which strike me as correct.Report

  2. Mike Schilling says:

    If BP were a state company, they could simple declare that safety regulations don’t apply to them, where under our free enterprise system they have to pay for that privilege.Report

  3. Trizzlor says:

    Is this going into Brooks’ next bestseller: Post hoc ergo propter hoc ?Report

  4. CRM says:

    One can argue that the issue is soon (in a historical sense) to be moot. Peak (easy) oil is on us, and there will soon be much stronger incentives for pursuing alternative energy sources. All of this is as predicted by various free-marketer economists. Once oil is no longer cheap and easy to obtain, we will make the small incremental changes necessary to wean off it.
    What the capitalistic west needs to decide is whether our dependence on oil is worth subsidizing the “state capitalist” enterprizes.

    The hope is that they will not adjust to a post-petrochem energy world as fast as we will.

    Sadly, it appears that China’s planned-centralized economic state is preparing itself better for the post-petrochem world than we are. Time will tell.Report

    • Simon K in reply to CRM says:

      @CRM, What exactly do you mean by “easy” oil? There’s plenty of geologically easy oil left in middle east, but OPEC has its hand on the spigot.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Simon K says:

        @Simon K,

        From what I remember reading, before the 2008 price spike and then the worldwide recession that curtailed demand, all the producers in the world (both opec & non-opec), except for the Saudis, were running full speed and had no excess capacity. Some of this was indeed due to state run enterprise inefficiency (esp in Venezuela) but a large part of it (including Venezuela) is that all their sources were covered down on and they were out of new ones to open up.

        But I could be wrong.Report

  5. Brett says:

    Crude oil is an odd product – high profit (overall – the actual margin is fairly slim if I recall correctly), little to no product differentiation. That’s probably why it can be nationalized to some effective degree – as long as you can keep pumping out the stuff, it doesn’t matter if nationalization usually results in crappy quality of goods, since it’s all oil anyways (and you can dump the refining jobs on the private market).Report

  6. Mike Farmer says:

    The confusion is with the language used. It’s become acceptable to talk about “state” capitalism, as if capitalism can be operational in any political system. I also don’t know what “democratic” capitalism means — the majority defines the role of capitalism? Capitalism is an economic system and can be capitalism-proper only in a hands-off politial system. Brooks is really talking about different degrees of what I call State Marketism. Capitalism as an economic system hasn’t been operational for decades, anywhere in the world.Report

    • JosephFM in reply to Mike Farmer says:

      @Mike Farmer,

      That’s because you have a purist, idiosyncratic definition of capitalism that excludes any sources of capital you regard as illegitimate. Which is most of them, since as you say, it doesn’t actually exist.

      I’m sure it annoys you to no end that people use capitalism to mean anything with a market mechanism and private investment – but if I understand that’s all you need to have capital (and therefore, “impure” capitalism).

      That said, “state capitalism” is a Trotsky coinage if I recall, so QED.Report

      • Mike Farmer in reply to JosephFM says:

        I know where the term was coined, but Brooks knows better — capitalism requires a free market — it’s not my definition, sport.Report

      • Mike Farmer in reply to JosephFM says:

        Since when is it “purist, idiosyncratic ” to stick to definitions? If capitalism means anything to do with capital, then it means nothing. You actually know better than this, but you are being purposefully ignorant for some mysterious reason. Why do you want to appear ignorant?Report

        • JosephFM in reply to Mike Farmer says:

          @Mike Farmer,
          I wasn’t so much being ignorant is not speaking clearly. My point was just that defenders of free market capitalism such as yourself need to realize that when most people (including myself!) hear “capitalism”, they think of the historical practice of capitalism, which is to say, centuries of state interventions on behalf of preexisting holders of capital. You can deny that this is actually capitalism, but that doesn’t change the fact thatit is still a common and valid definition of capitalism – and moreover one that predominates outside of relatively small intellectual circles.Report

  7. JosephFM says:

    I had a different reading on this piece – Brooks seems to be recycling the old Cold War rhetoric about how we need to step up our ruthlessness lest the Commies (who are smarter and more powerful than you think!) beat us again!

    This actually makes no sense, since the state oil companies own major shares of the multinationals and vice versa. Functionally they’re not even actual competitors.Report