No nationalize! No no no!
Michael Lind has an interesting article up today at Salon that’s part history lesson and part suggestion that we draw on the historical reality of corporations (which were first formed as limited entities that served the government, and thus were quasi-public—like the British East India Company) to create a federal corporate charter that revitalizes the specialization of the quasi-public ones of the past. I highly recommend it, but I’m blogging it because I admire how Lind just railroads over today’s sacred cows about the evils of nationalization and moves right into grown-up talk.
Which got me to thinking about that particular sacred cow, and sacred cows in general. Sometimes I think all it takes to create a sacred cow is to wildly overreact if someone violates the wished-for taboo, and hope that everyone’s so busy trying to calm you down and shut you up that they don’t take the time to ask why you’re so damn offended. This is, of course, the primary way that conservatives conduct themselves in public, so clearly they must think it works. And really, it does, at least some of the time (I’m not sure the “Sonia Sotomayor is A RACIST!!!1!!!!11!1!!11!” bullshit will take), and that much is clear on the “OMG NATIONALIZATION COMMIE” fainting couch maneuver. As an objection, it’s content-free, particularly when it’s clear that companies like GM went out of their way to get bought out by the government. Sure, that may not have been their conscious intention, but I think we’re looking at the corporate version of the guy (or gal) who, afraid to admit to themselves that they want out of their marriage, starts on a campaign of passive-aggressive bullshit that will force it to happen. GM did the equivalent of sitting around picking on every little thing you do, acting like any interaction is a chore, stealing the remote, and cheating on you repeatedly. And when that didn’t work, they had sex with your best friend on the front lawn. Except in bad business decisions. Before I stretch this analogy to its breaking point, I’ll just say that it’s hard for anyone to give a shit.
But why should we have in the first place? I don’t really see why there should be some sort of “break only in case of emergencies” approach to nationalization. Corporations are traded on public markets, and so they’re not like your house, where you have a right to be selective about when and who buys it. Except, of course, that you don’t. At least not when it comes to the right of eminent domain, in which the government can nationalize your house to build a road or a park if they want to. Oh yeah, and now, thanks to Kelo v. City of New London, the government has a right to nationalize your house so someone can build a shopping mall on it. The moralistic objections to the government’s nationalization of publicly traded companies sounds weak when that’s your backdrop.
Of course, I’m a couple steps behind on this one. From what I understand, the wingnut attempts to make partisan hay over the collapse of the auto-making industry have moved towards conspiracy theories wherein the government uses the existence of car dealerships to punish and reward their favoritest people. Because regression has kicked in for conservatives to the point where they view the government strictly as a toddler views a parent—a system of rewards and punishments that seems impossible to game when you only have the skills of kicking and screaming.