"What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand," Frank Rich wrote in Sunday's New York Times.
That manipulation should disturb us. But contrary to Rich, it is not the work of "corporatists" who have sprung up to attack progressive reforms proposed by President Obama and the Democratic majority. Manipulation is what we got many years ago when we traded a more or less free market for the "progressive" interventionist state. When government is big, the well-connected always have an advantage over the rest of us in influencing public policy.
Observe: Although Obama and big-government activists demonize health insurance companies, the companies "are still mostly on board with the president's effort to overhaul the U.S. health care system," the Wall Street Journal reports; and ...
Although the activists criticize Big Pharma, "The drug industry has already contributed millions of dollars to advertising campaigns for the health care overhaul through the advocacy groups like Healthy Economies Now and Families USA. It has spent about $1 million on similar advertisements under its own name," the Times reports.
Big Pharma and Big Insurance want Obama-style health care reform?
It's not so hard to understand. "The drug makers stand to gain millions of new customers," the Times said.
And from the Journal: "If health legislation succeeds, the [insurance] industry would likely get a fresh batch of new customers. In particular, many young and healthy people who currently forgo coverage would be forced to sign up." No wonder insurers are willing to stop "discriminating" against sick people. (Forget that the essence of insurance is discrimination according to risk.)
Not that Big Pharma and Big Insurance like every detail of the Democratic plan. Drug companies don't want Medicare negotiating drug prices -- for good reason. If it forces drug prices down, research and development will be discouraged. (Depending whom you believe, Obama may or may not have agreed with the drug companies on this point.)
As for the insurance companies, they worry -- legitimately -- that a government insurance company -- the so-called "public option" -- would drive them out of business. This isn't alarmism. It's economics. The public option would have no bottom line to worry about and therefore could engage in "predatory pricing" against the private insurers.
But despite these differences, the biggest companies in these two industries are on board with "reform."
It illustrates economist Steven Horwitz's First Law of Political Economy: "No one hates capitalism more than capitalists." In this case, big business wants to shape -- and profit from -- what inevitably will be an interventionist health care reform. Can you think of the last time a major business supported a truly free market in anything?