Why you should care

What if the pitched battle between free-marketeers and pro-government regulators is losing all credibility? OZY reports. 

One of the defining battles of our time is between markets and regulation. But these days, libertarians are popping up in unexpected places, conservatives are turning to regulation, Republicans are accusing Democrats of crony capitalism — and populism is springing up on both sides of the aisle.

Adolfo Mesquita Nunes

“Often, whatever you let the state rule, the state will ruin,” says Portugal’s libertarian tourism minister. It might be a surprise to see this philosophy getting play in a depressed economy — but lo and behold, Adolfo Mesquita Nunes is something of a political sensation. At 14, he read Milton and Rose Friedman’s Free to Choose , and in the 23 years since, he hasn’t looked back. A libertarian approach to Portugal’s tourism industry might be helping, though: By cutting red tape, reducing taxes and making it easier to set up businesses, Nunes let bloom a thousand food carts, walking tours, tuk-tuks and guides, who no longer need licenses. The 37-year-old is a bit of an eccentric and a whole lot of enfant terrible , and when OZY reporter Laura Secorun Palet caught up with him on a Lisbon rooftop, he wore yellow suspenders and Ray-Bans. Read the story here.

Sheila Bair

Can a pro-market conservative want more regulation? Sheila Bair did — and her interview with OZY contributor Kathleen Day explodes the notion that markets and regulation are inherently opposed. The Republican presided over the FDIC in the darkest days of the financial crisis, often going to battle with Obama-ites Larry Summers and Tim Geithner. Here Bair calls for “consistent rules that apply evenhandedly to everyone,” lest we tread the “path of crony capitalism: people in government helping people who they know and not so much the people they don’t know.” And she makes a nice distinction between enabling markets and writing big checks to companies. “That’s going to help the industry, but that’s not pro-market. That’s market distorting. It troubles me that I see, too often, members of my party taking pro-industry positions that are not necessarily pro-market positions.” Read the story here.

Economic Leadership on the Chopping Block

At some point this past summer, Republicans started accusing Democrats of a charge more frequently leveled their way: crony capitalism. They came to blows over a little-known agency called the Export-Import Bank , which helps finance American companies abroad, as OZY reporter Emily Cadei explained. Anti-spending groups like Club for Growth and Heritage Action called it a choice example of “crony capitalism” and “corporate welfare.” But others, even within the Republican fold, argued that the agency plays a critical role in helping U.S. companies that is not easily replicated by the private sector, and costs the taxpayers nothing. Read the story here.

The Return of American Populism

Among the leaders implicated in that brouhaha was Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., whom libertarians bashed for not piling onto the Ex-Im Bank. The reason? Warren has made her name as a populist, and lately Republicans have been easing in on that territory, too: populism. Yes, the idea that business and government are in cahoots, and they’re screwing over the common man is back — on both sides of the aisle. The battle is less between regulation and markets than over who gets to wear the populist mantle and hoist the pitchfork, OZY reporter Pooja Bhatia wrote. Some of the big names? Warren, natch, plus Republicans Paul Ryan and David Brat. Read the story here.

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