Capitalists never liked capitalism

by Russ Roberts on May 19, 2011

in Competition

Capitalists tend not to like capitalism. Milton Friedman pointed this out long ago. Too much competition. Too much risk. Much better to have the government keep out competitors and subsidize losses. Floyd Norris at the New York Times has just discovered this in an article called “Capitalists Who Fear Free Markets” (HT: Catherine Rampell):

Capitalism is supposed to produce losses on bad investments.

But all too often it has not.

In Tokyo this week, corporate executives were outraged when a Japanese government official suggested that banks might have to take losses on loans to the company that produced a nuclear catastrophe.

Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, had the temerity to say “the public will not support” the injection of government money into Tokyo Electric Power, also known as Tepco, unless banks share in the pain. Tepco says it would like to pay compensation to victims, but needs government cash to do so.

The president of Japan’s largest bank, Mitsubishi UFJ Financial, was shocked by the very idea that a bank should lose money if it lent to a company that could not meet its obligations. Mr. Edano’s remarks “came out of the blue,” said the executive, Katsunori Nagayasu. “I felt there was something wrong about them.”

Consumers like capitalism, not business people.



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