Before the U.S. gets too sanctimonious about Asian crony capitalism, it should ask itself about its own practice of selling access to government. The brutal truth is that the campaign-finance system is breeding the same kind of cronyism in America.
Big money from big organizations is buying eyeball time that leads to special tax and regulation favors from congressional legislators, White House officials, and government bureaucrats. And that's true whether it's corporate, trade union, teacher, trial lawyer, or even retiree money at work. As the cost of running election campaigns soars, the power of a handful of organized contributors climbs with it, distorting the political process and making it less democratic. Any notion that a "free market" offering access via campaign contributions is equivalent to true democracy is ludicrous. Just look at Asia.
A level field with everyone playing by the rules is America's core value. Anything less risks distorting the heart of democratic capitalism. Yet nothing is being done. Despite disgraceful 1996 Presidential and congressional electoral campaigns that were awash in soft money from disreputable and possibly illegal sources, Washington continues to play partisan politics while doing absolutely nothing. Congress' absolute unwillingness to take action on campaign-finance reform represents a serious threat to American society. Not only does it undermine the core principle of one person-one vote, it threatens the U.S. economy with the same kind of entrenched rigidities and inefficiencies that plague Asia. Think hard about that over the holiday season.