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Barry Ritholtz: The Left Right Paradigm Is Over! It's You Vs. The Corporations

Fists clenched revolution

cartoon of corporate fat cat

Barry is right.  It doesn't matter which party runs the show -- the real power on Capitol Hill is entrenched within the Military-Industrial Party, the Agriculture Party, the Banking Party, the Big-Energy Party, and Big Pharma & Insurance.

They win.  You lose.  No matter who is in office.

Every generation or so, a major secular shift takes place that shakes up the existing paradigm. It happens in industry, finance, literature, sports, manufacturing, technology, entertainment, travel, communication, etc.

I would like to discuss the paradigm shift that is occurring in politics.

For a long time, American politics has been defined by a Left/Right dynamic. It was Liberals versus Conservatives on a variety of issues. Pro-Life versus Pro-Choice, Tax Cuts vs. More Spending, Pro-War vs Peaceniks, Environmental Protections vs. Economic Growth, Pro-Union vs. Union-Free, Gay Marriage vs. Family Values, School Choice vs. Public Schools, Regulation vs. Free Markets.

The new dynamic, however, has moved past the old Left Right paradigm. We now live in an era defined by increasing Corporate influence and authority over the individual. These two “interest groups” – I can barely suppress snorting derisively over that phrase – have been on a headlong collision course for decades, which came to a head with the financial collapse and bailouts. Where there is massive concentrations of wealth and influence, there will be abuse of power.  The Individual has been supplanted in the political process nearly entirely by corporate money, legislative influence, campaign contributions, even free speech rights.

This may not be a brilliant insight, but it is surely an overlooked one. It is now an Individual vs. Corporate debate – and the Humans are losing.


  • Many of the regulations that govern energy and banking sector were written by Corporations;
  • The biggest influence on legislative votes is often Corporate Lobbying;
  • Corporate ability to extend copyright far beyond what original protections amounts to a taking of public works for private corporate usage;
  • PAC and campaign finance by Corporations has supplanted individual donations to elections;
  • The individuals’ right to seek redress in court has been under attack for decades, limiting their options.
  • DRM and content protection undercuts the individual’s ability to use purchased content as they see fit;
  • Patent protections are continually weakened. Deep pocketed corporations can usurp inventions almost at will;
  • The Supreme Court has ruled that Corporations have Free Speech rights equivalent to people; (So much for original intent!)

None of these are Democrat/Republican conflicts, but rather, are corporate vs. individual issues.

For those of you who are stuck in the old Left/Right debate, you are missing the bigger picture. Consider this about the Bailouts: It was a right-winger who bailed out all of the big banks, Fannie Mae, and AIG in the first place; then his left winger successor continued to pour more money into the fire pit.

What difference did the Left/Right dynamic make? Almost none whatsoever.

How about government spending? The past two presidents are regarded as representative of the Left Right paradigm – yet they each spent excessively, sponsored unfunded tax cuts, plowed money into military adventures and ran enormous deficits. Does Left Right really make a difference when it comes to deficits and fiscal responsibility? (Apparently not).

What does it mean when we can no longer distinguish between the actions of the left and the right? If that dynamic no longer accurately distinguishes what occurs, why are so many of our policy debates framed in Left/Right terms?

In many ways, American society is increasingly less married to this dynamic: Party Affiliation continues to fall, approval of Congress is at record lows, and voter participation hovers at very low rates.

There is some pushback already taking place against the concentration of corporate power: Mainstream corporate media has been increasingly replaced with user created content – YouTube and Blogs are increasingly important to news consumers (especially younger users). Independent voters are an increasingly larger share of the US electorate. And I suspect that much of the pushback against the Elizabeth Warren’s concept of a Financial Consumer Protection Agency plays directly into this Corporate vs. Individual fight.

But the battle lines between the two groups have barely been drawn. I expect this fight will define American politics over the next decade.

Keynes vs Hayek? Friedman vs Krugman? Those are the wrong intellectual debates. Its you vs. Tony Hayward, BP CEO, You vs. Lloyd Blankfein, Goldman Sachs CEO. And you are losing . . .

This short commentary was conceived not to be an exhaustive research, but rather, to stimulate debate. There are many more examples and discussions we can have about this, and I hope readers do so in comments.

But my bottom line is this:  If you see the world in terms of Left & Right, you really aren’t seeing the world at all . . .




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Reader Comments (16)

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Sep 28, 2010 at 4:41 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
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Sep 28, 2010 at 4:47 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Great post!
Sep 28, 2010 at 6:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterS. Gompers
I've never heard of this Barry Ritholz guy.

However, anyone who cherishes Freedom over Officialdom and who has an IQ of at least 120 has known that the true war is a war that has been waged against Freedom by those who control Officialdom and the oligopoly-based economy.

This war has been ongoing since the Progressive Era began in the 1890s.

In ancient times, a king reigned over all and kept his power by doling out dukedoms and earldoms. Today, the presidency has become a revolving kingdom and industries have become dukedoms and earldoms.

While it is great that Barry Ritholz scratches at the surface, his view seems rather primitive about what has arisen and under the true scheme of governance and power under which Americans of Freedom have become subjugated.
Sep 29, 2010 at 4:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterSmack MacDougal
Ritholtz is only halfway to the truth, so I'm calling this article worthless. He forgot to mention that the corporations would have no power outside of government. Look at his bullet point list. Every single one of those items is completely rooted in government power. Government is a tool for the wealthy and powerful. And yet, sigh, millions of people believe "we need more regulations and a stronger government to combat these corporations".
Sep 30, 2010 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered Commenterrobin hood
While it is great that Barry Ritholz scratches at the surface, his view seems rather primitive about what has arisen and under the true scheme of governance and power under which Americans of Freedom have become subjugated.


Smack...i don't think barry meant it to be an exhaustive work...if you read his comments at the end he admits it's a simplistic piece...and though you haven't heard of him he is the most famous econ blogger out there...he's a staple on cnbc...his readership is huge...just giving you some background...i don't always agree with him by any means...
Sep 30, 2010 at 4:02 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
robin hood...i don't know barry's politics...but i'm pretty sure he supports a smaller federal gov't...
Sep 30, 2010 at 4:04 PM | Registered CommenterDailyBail
Aye, only the way he framed this bit, he plays into the hands of the political left at the same time he is trying to get past the politics to the root of the problem. He could have done better...
Oct 1, 2010 at 12:38 AM | Unregistered Commenterrobin hood
The Tea Party and OWS are like twins separated at birth.

Both hate Wall St. and love Main St.

Both hate Big Banks

Both hate illegals.... OWS because they suppress wages - TP just wants them gone.

Both want to abolish the Fed.

Both want an end expensive Wars.

Both hate outsourcing Corporations.

Both think Wall St trading is corrupt... insiders make money up or down... while Grannie's 401 K is destroyed by the games. Outlaw short selling and both TP and OWS will vote for you.

So why don't TP and OWS speak to each other?

OWS is gay, has tattoos, loves Tacos and smokes pot.

TP is homophobic, xenophobic, loves Chicken Friend Steak and beer.

The parties play one against the other... and steal from all of us.
Oct 7, 2011 at 4:23 PM | Unregistered CommenterP baptism
Last poster, which of these definitions were you trying to communicate with that acronym? Or other?

Acronym Definition
OWS Operational Weather Squadron
OWS Open Geospatial Consortium, Inc.
OWS Office of Workforce Security
OWS Outdoor Wireless System
OWS Oracle Web Server
OWS Oil Water Separator
OWS Open Web Studio (software)
OWS Operator Workstation (Ericsson)
OWS Open Water Swim
OWS Orbital Workshop (1960s NASA program)
OWS Ocean Weather Station
OWS Online Web Solutions
OWS occupant weight sensor (automotive)
OWS Ontario Weather Service
OWS Optimal Wire Sizing
OWS Obstacle Warning System
OWS On Wing Support (aviation)
OWS Open Web Steel (joists, construction)
OWS Operating While Suspended (law enforcement)
OWS Oldbury Wells School
OWS Obsessive Website Statistics
OWS One World Syndicate (gaming community)
OWS Overload Warning System
OWS Odfjell Well Services (Tanager, Norway oil & gas equipment & services company)
OWS Oily Water Sewer
OWS Orbiting Workshop
OWS Optical Witness Sample
OWS Outcomes Web System
OWS Operations Workstation
OWS Ottawa Watercolor Society
OWS OPC Warm Standby (Nortel)
OWS Overall Wellness Score
OWS Overweight Surcharge (shipping industry)
OWS Overhead Weapons System
OWS Office of Warfighter Support
OWS Online Warranty Service (ASBIS Enterprises)
OWS On Wing Services
OWS Order Wire System
OWS Outdoor Wood Store
OWS Ocean Work Station (Canadian Naval Forces)
OWS Operational Work Station
OWS Ojibway Warrior Society (Canada)
OWS Operation Warrior Support (Daytona Beach, FL)
OWS Owner Will Ship
OWS Oilfield Warehouse & Services
Oct 8, 2011 at 9:14 AM | Unregistered CommenterDnhill Skier
I don't disagree with a lot of your analysis bar one big item - your contention that there is still a left/right split in mainstream politics. Both in the USA and in other developed nations, since 1989, there has been only one, rightwing, free market show in town - deregulated, globalised capitalism. In this context, Obama's supposed leftwing politics are frankly just a slight variation on the theme of rightwing free market economics. it has been this way on both sides of the Pond since Thatcher and Reagan bust traditional politics and their social democratic / liberal opponents signed up to a new consensus around capitalist politics. So the left/right pardigm does still exist and it is precisely along the fault lines you mention - corporates vs the people; rightwing politics vs the possibility for leftwing egalitarian democracy - but you won't find it in mainstream parties, which is why we now see the rise of the likes of Syriza in Greece and leftwing groups elsewhere.
Jul 6, 2012 at 5:11 PM | Unregistered CommenterAdrian Cruden

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