Populist conservatives vs. big business

The left stereotypes conservatives as the tools of big business, but, as I keep saying on this blog, there are many different kinds of conservatives, and a good many of them–especially the populists associated with the Tea Party– oppose powerful corporations for some of the same reasons leftists do.  Thus, the Washington Post reports that big business is mourning the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and is dismayed at the rise of tea party favorite David Brat, a strong critic of “crony capitalism,” the partnerships between big business and big government.  (See this for Prof. Brat’s ideas about economics and Christianity.)

So is there the possibility of a left/right populist coalition?  The Republican elite and the Democratic elite mostly agree on the cultural issues, though possibly ordinary people in both parties–Catholic Democrats and evangelical Republicans– have more in common on these issues than they realize. [Read more...]

The two paths for Democrats

We talked about the two paths for Republicans.  Apparently there are also two paths opening up for Democrats.  Two columns in the Washington Post cite a growing schism in the Democratic Party between old-line pro-union economic liberals and big business Democrats who favor Wall Street.  What the two factions have in common is social liberalism (pro-abortion, pro-feminist, pro-gay, etc.), but the party’s former solidarity on economic issues is coming apart.  (Which may be the opposite of what is happening among Republicans, with the big business faction and the populists agreeing on economics but differing on social issues.) [Read more...]

Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells

I had assumed this was just a wild rumor, but Pepsi really is using the bodies of aborted children to make its products–not for cannibalism but in product testing.   And the Obama administration has given its approval.   From Lifesite:

PepsiCo has come under fire from pro-life advocates because it has been contracting with a research firm that uses fetal cells from babies victimized by abortions to test and produce artificial flavor enhancers.

Now, the Obama administration is set to face more criticism because an agency has declared that Pepsi’s use of the company and its controversial flavor testing process constitutes “ordinary business.”

In a decision delivered February 28, the Security and Exchange Commission ruled that PepsiCo’s use of aborted fetal remains in their research and development agreement with Senomyx to produce flavor enhancers falls under “ordinary business operations.”

Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director of Children of God for Life, the organization that exposed the PepsiCo- Senomyx collaboration last year, informed LifeNews today that a letter signed by Attorney Brian Pitko of the SEC Office of Chief Counsel was sent in response to a 36-page document submitted by PepsiCo attorneys in January 2012. In that filing, PepsiCo pleaded with the SEC to reject a Shareholder’s Resolution filed in October 2011 that the company “adopt a corporate policy that recognizes human rights and employs ethical standards which do not involve using the remains of aborted human beings in both private and collaborative research and development agreements.”

PepsiCo lead attorney George A. Schieren noted that the resolution should be excluded because it “deals with matters related to the company’s ordinary business operations” and that “certain tasks are so fundamental to run a company on a day-to-day basis that they could not be subject to stockholder oversight.”

Vinnedge said she is appalled by the apathy and insensitivity of both PepsiCo executives and the Obama administration.

“We’re not talking about what kind of pencils PepsiCo wants to use – we are talking about exploiting the remains of an aborted child for profit,” she said. “Using human embryonic kidney (HEK-293) to produce flavor enhancers for their beverages is a far cry from routine operations.” . . . .

“The company’s key flavor programs focus on the discovery and development of savory, sweet and salt flavor ingredients that are intended to allow for the reduction of MSG, sugar and salt in food and beverage products,” the Senomyx web site says. “Using isolated human taste receptors, we created proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems that provide a biochemical or electronic readout when a flavor ingredient interacts with the receptor.”Vinnedge explained, “What they don’t tell the public is that they are using HEK 293 – human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors. They could have easily chosen animal, insect, or other morally obtained human cells expressing the G protein for taste receptors.”

via Obama Agency: Pepsi Using Aborted Fetal Cells is Ordinary Business | LifeNews.com.

Comments from a source that isn’t pro-life, as such, focused instead on environmental and food issues:

To be clear, the aborted fetal tissue used to make Pepsi’s flavor chemicals does not end up in the final product sold to customers, according to reports — it is used, instead, to evaluate how actual human taste receptors respond to these chemical flavorings. But the fact that Pepsi uses them at all when viable, non-human alternatives are available illustrates the company’s blatant disregard for ethical and moral concerns in the matter.

Pepsi is not the only corporation doing this sort of thing.  Senomyx’s other customers include the pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and Merck.

So it has come to this:  the commodification of aborted babies.

Will Republicans go along with this, since it’s a matter of corporate practice and they are committed to being pro-business?  Will Libertarians defend this practice, since it’s all free enterprise?  Will Democrats who are normally critical of big business support these corporations, with pro-choicers not seeing a problem since they think fetuses are not human beings and since using fetuses as commodities reinforces a woman’s right to choose?

UPDATE:  Read the comments for some facts that might put Pepsi and federal regulators (not the Obama administration as such) in a more positive light.  But they also might not.  You tell me.

HT:  Trey

Luther on big business

Thanks to Tom Hering for this quotation from Martin Luther, On Trading and Usury, 1524:

Of the companies I ought to say much, but that whole subject is such a bottomless abyss of avarice and wrong that there is nothing in it that can be discussed with a clear conscience. For what man is so stupid as not to see that companies are nothing else than mere monopolies? Even the temporal law of the heathen forbids them as openly injurious, to say nothing of the divine law and Christian statutes. They have all commodities under their control and practice without concealment all the tricks that have been mentioned; they raise and lower prices as they please and oppress and ruin all the small merchants, as the pike the little fish in the water, just as though they were lords over God’s creatures and free from all the laws of faith and love …

… How could it ever be right and according to God’s will that a man should in a short time grow so rich that he could buy out kings and emperors? But they have brought things to such a pass that the whole world must do business at a risk and at a loss, winning this year and losing next year, while they always win, making up their losses by increased profits, and so it is no wonder that they quickly seize upon the wealth of all the world, for a pfennig that is permanent and sure is better than a gulden that is temporary and uncertain. But these companies trade with permanent and sure gulden, and we with temporary and uncertain pfennigs. No wonder they become kings and we beggars!

via Comments ‹ Cranach: The Blog of Veith — WordPress.

Now I don’t think this means Luther would Occupy Wall Street if he were here today, but there is quite a bit here:  He opposes monopolies, which are always anti-free-market.   (The paradox that the free market will create businesses that try to prevent the free market from working against them by establishing monopolies was noted by Marx, but I believe conservatives agree with this problem.)  He also seems to want “strong money,” as opposed to inflationary and easily-manipulated soft currency.

Luther speaks as a theologian, not as an economist, as if that field existed then as it does today, but doesn’t this strike a chord?

The end of the store?

What the big chain bookstores did to the mom & pop shops, Amazon.com is doing to the big chain bookstores.  At least Borders, which may be in its death throes.  (Barnes & Noble is hanging in there.)  Border’s woes are not just the internet.  The Washington Post published a fascinating article about Borders in the context of the larger book business:  Borders struggles amid rapid changes in book sales.

We have discussed the pro’s and con’s of Walmart, which gives customers good prices and thus a higher standard of living, at the expense of wiping out small local businesses.   I wonder, though, if even the big corporate department stores are at risk from the internet.   My daughter (a grown-up) buys virtually everything online–shoes, clothes, vitamins.  Will we even need hard-copy shops, except to buy food and maybe staples from Wal-Mart, which will surely survive?

Would this be yet another phase of gigantism, as the big stores themselves get outdone by even bigger nation-wide virtual stores?

In the early days of the internet, it was thought that small, even home-based businesses would flourish, since the new medium would allow them to compete on an even playing field with the big corporations.  Maybe that is so.  The online companies that get my daughter’s business are in some cases small ventures run by stay-at-home moms.  Or is internet commerce itself getting taken over by the big players?  Might the human impulse to “go shopping” mean that there will always be bricks and mortar shops, including bookstores?

Another conversation with my brother

In case you missed it on the George Bush & Aids post, my brother and I had another exchange, in the course of which I formulate what I consider a truly conservative economic ideology:

He says: OK. I (“Dr. Veith’s” younger brother who is still and always will be a Democrat) hereby give George Bush credit for saving millions of lives as a result of his AIDS initiative. Hey, that felt kind of good!

Now for you conservatives, isn’t it about time to give President Obama credit for the bailout of General Motors?

I say: Jimmy (my brother) @3: Thank you for that concession. That was all I wanted. But what you want from conservatives shows that liberals do not understand the many different ideologies that they lump together under that label. Most people on this blog, I daresay, are suspicious of BOTH big government AND big business.

We do believe in free markets. To return to your earlier illustration, if doctors and pharmaceutical companies and everyone else in the health care professions could not make a lot of money from their work, we soon would be back to what you decried in the primitive health care endured by Adam Smith back in 1776.

However, the really big companies hate free markets. They don’t want competition that brings prices down and increases supply. This is the lesson of Monopoly, at which I beat you so many times, the object of which is not prosperity and abundance for everybody, but one person putting everybody else out of business and getting–with the state-run socialist bank–ALL of everyone’s money.

And even worse for us crunchy-conservatives or front-porch conservatives or social conservatives or whatever you want to call us than big government and big business is when both of those behemoths combine together into something that so gargantuan that it crowds out everybody! This is why we don’t like Obama’s bailout of the big banks and his merger with General Motors. This is also why we don’t like Obama’s health care system, which is a marriage of big government with the big insurance companies.

Then he says:

To my big brother,”Dr. Veith”. Thanks for reminding me how often you beat me at Monopoly.

I agree with much of what you said in your comments at #26. I agree that the individual can be harmed by both BIG government and BIG business. My question for you is how can we check the powers of BIG business?

Historically, it has been done in two ways, with unions and government. With the decline of unions, government is the principal way we can check the powers of big business. When conservatives reject any government role in a “free market system” as a mater of ideology, they are left with nothing to check the powers of big business.

I don’t think that a corporation should be allowed to make money any way it pleases. Corporations are fictional “persons” created under the law. Corporations exist to serve the people, we do not exist to serve the corporation. It is perfectly appropriate that the government that created corporations can and should regulate its activites. For example, the government should prohibit companies from selling dangerous products to the public, and should protect the safety of the company employees. I acknowledge that rules and regulations imposed by government on business can be too burdensome and heavy handed. So the rules and regulations imposed by government should be smart and pragmatic. But I think it is insane to reject the role of government in a modern free market economy on purely ideological grounds.

This is why I support Obama’s health care, because I think it is perfectly appropriate for government to prohibit insurance companies from denying people coverage for a pre-existing condition. Allowing insurance companies to only insure healthy people is a business model that does not benefit the public and is not sustainable in the long run.

Now I don’t want to start another debate on the wisdom or lack of wisdom of Obama’s health care. Time will tell. My point is that we should not reject the power of government to regulate the health care insurance industry as a matter of principal.

Does this make me a soci@list? I don’t think so.

I repost these exchanges because my brother is actually very perceptive, liberal though he is, and because they demonstrate the lesson I have been trying to impose on you all, that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable, to remain one big happy family through it all, and that it is possible to use discussions consisting of different opinions to come to actual insights.

Anyway, who is with me in this suspicion of big government and big business and, especially, their marriage with their hideous spawn?

And can anyone answer Jimmy?  What can limit both big government and big business?


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