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How Many Cheers for Bain?

10:55 AM, Jan 10, 2012 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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At least that’s one way of looking at it. Another would be that Bain liberated capital from one inefficient use and turned it into wealth, which was transferred to its investors. And which may—or may not—have been used more efficiently by them. No one really knows how it was used in the short-run and you have to be one of those “markets are always right” Republicans to assume that they put it to more productive use.

(5) So was Bain a bunch of job-creating capitalists, or a band of corporate raiders? The answer seems mixed—and again, there’s nothing wrong with that. You could make a sophisticated economic argument that access to capital is even more important than entrepreneurial genius in the grand scheme of things. That’s why poor countries with no capital never seem to catch a break even though they must—just by the law of averages—have had some brilliant entrepreneurs in their ranks.

But what is efficient isn’t always admirable. And the near-term results in a market are not always efficient, as the crash of 2008 shows. It is perfectly reasonable for voters to be allowed to examine Bain and determine (irrespective of their support of the free market) whether they find it compatible with the White House.

(6) Given all of that, why the collective Republican backlash over Gingrich bringing scrutiny to Bain? There are three possible explanations. First, Gingrich’s attacks are not perfectly fair and dispassionate. That’s certainly true. But, as Romney said during Sunday’s debate, “this ain’t beanbag.” And there was no a similar call for fairness earlier in the campaign when Romney, over the course of weeks, demagogued and distorted Rick Perry’s positions on Social Security and college tuition for illegal immigrants.

Second, the reporting on Bain tends to come from sources such as the New York Times. Like Gingrich, you cannot trust the Times to be exquisitely fair in every regard. But you also cannot discount everything they report simply because it’s in the Times.

Third, the conversation about Bain must be shut down for the same reason the primary process has continually been declared “over”—because the Republican establishment has decided that Mitt Romney must be the nominee and any attempt to derail that outcome must be quashed. That’s fine. The Republican establishment is certainly entitled to pursue its own interests.

But conservatives do not have a duty to aid them. We will have a series of elections and the voters will decide who the nominee will be. In the course of that process, the voters are entitled to take a long and detailed look at Mitt Romney’s chief stated qualification for the presidency.

And they can render a verdict on Romney’s work without conflating the specific case of Bain Capital with the free market itself.

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