2011-06-22

(Hunts)Man, EconoRomney, and the State

David Friedman remarks that prefers a hypothetical President Jon Huntsman to a hypothetical President Mitt Romney. Friedman points out, though, that he is not a conservative and really knows very little about Huntsman.

I grew up in Utah, so Huntsman is no stranger to me. In fact, Huntsman is my business school's namesake. The national media has yet to give him a close look. What they'll find is nothing particularly atrocious or Earth-shattering, in the same way that nothing about Mitt Romney is particularly atrocious or Earth-shattering.

That's because Huntsman and Romney are exactly the same: Rich mormons with good intentions who will invariably be asked to make policy decisions that may conflict with their religious convictions. In the end, they will always choose based on their religion. Partly this is because it is natural to make important judgements based on one's deepest convictions, and partly this is because - as any rich mormon knows - making nice with the mormon community is good for business.

Everyone knows where mormons stand on the issues. At the end of the day, mormons look a lot like classic Republican social conservatives, but their rich history of socialism and communism reveals them to be economically statist. This is unfamiliar territory in the United States, but in Canada and Europe it is actually quite common to be socially conservative and economically anti-market. I guess the closest we get here in the states is the old Huey Long / southern socialist mentality. 

The consistent uptick in mormons with pro-Obama belief systems is further evidence of this. Not saying it's bad. It is what it is.

Furthermore, anyone who has spent much time in Utah knows it to be the bloated credit-and-construction-based economy that it is. In many ways it is a model of the US economy itself, consisting primarily of large banks and insurance companies selling credit to fund a perpetual housing boom that lines the pockets of the government, the banks, and the local religion. That is pretty much a microcosm for US government if I've ever seen one.

I also happen to know a long list of mormons employed by the US federal bureaucracy; folks who either grew up in Utah or received their schooling at Brigham Young University. Utah State University's connections to NASA are well-known by all, and even your humble correspondent was once selected for employment with the Council of Economic Advisers until they ran out of funding for an extra intern.

The point is that Utah and its mormons are "government insiders" if ever there were any. Huntsman and Romney are establishment Republicans. If you're looking for liberty, look elsewhere.