The Rise of America Inc: Levelling of Tilting the Playing Field?
The US lays strong claim to being the world’s most liberal state and the highest expression of an open, free-market economy. As the globe’s most powerful champion of competitive liberalism it has steadfastly pressed on others the merits of open markets, transparency, fairness, and above all else a level playing field. While US departures from the free-market norm are widely acknowledged, these are generally perceived to be either protectionist deviations from an otherwise solidly liberal core or strategic interventions to combat foreign unfairness. This paper shows why the standard liberal depiction of the American state is out of date. It argues that the government-business relationship in the United States over the past two decades has undergone a significant shift – in the direction of a more coordinated and collaborative (and in certain respects increasingly proactive) approach to policymaking. The American pattern of government-business relations, it proposes, has more in common with aspects of the classical Japanese model -- labelled by Americans as ‘Japan Inc.’ -- which the US has long criticised and worked hard to dismantle. In key sectors of the economy, government works closely with the private sector to promote US commercial interests, both at home and abroad, both proactively and defensively. Although invariably justified in official discourse as modes of ‘levelling the playing field’, these interventions usually have little to do with fighting foreign unfairness.