Understanding Crony Capitalism: Definition and Examples

  • Billy Cobb
  • Nov 14, 2023
Understanding Crony Capitalism: Definition and Examples

What is Crony Capitalism?

Crony capitalism is a term used to describe a political and economic system where businesses or individuals form close relationships with government officials in order to gain favoritism and access to resources that are otherwise unavailable to them. This can include anything from preferential regulations and tax breaks to government contracts and licenses. In crony capitalism, the line between the actions of the government and those of individual businesses become blurred, which can often lead to a culture of corruption and abuse of power.

One of the defining characteristics of crony capitalism is that it is often difficult for new businesses, especially those without preexisting political connections, to enter into an industry or compete with established firms. This tends to result in a stagnant economy with little innovation or competition. Additionally, crony capitalism tends to be associated with income inequality, as the rewards of economic success are disproportionately distributed to those with access to government officials and resources.

While crony capitalism is often associated with developing countries or authoritarian regimes, it is also a problem in many developed democracies. In these cases, the issue may be less about explicit collusion between businesses and politicians and more about a revolving door between powerful corporations and government regulatory agencies.

Crony capitalism can have serious consequences for society as a whole. In addition to undermining economic growth and competition, it can foster a general sense of cynicism and distrust among citizens, who come to feel that their political systems are rigged against them.

Some of the most egregious examples of crony capitalism include cases where companies have received massive bailouts or subsidies in order to stay afloat, despite poor performance or terrible business practices. Other examples include instances where corporations have engaged in large-scale tax evasion or formed monopolies through collusion with political elites.

Ultimately, the problem of crony capitalism can only be addressed through a combination of reforms to both the political and economic systems. This means improving transparency and accountability within government, reducing regulatory capture, and strengthening antitrust laws. It also means promoting a culture of entrepreneurship and innovation, in which new businesses have the opportunity to succeed based on merit rather than political connections.

The Negative Consequences of Crony Capitalism

As defined by Investopedia, crony capitalism refers to “an economy in which businesses thrive not as a result of risk, but rather as a return on money amassed through a nexus between a business class and the political class.” In other words, it’s the collusion between government officials and businesses to gain an unfair advantage in the marketplace.

While some may argue that crony capitalism can provide benefits to certain individuals or companies, such as government contracts or tax breaks, the negative consequences ultimately outweigh the positives. Here are just a few examples:

1. Corruption

When government officials and businesses work together for their own personal gain, it can create a breeding ground for corruption. Bribes, kickbacks, and other forms of illegal or unethical behavior can become commonplace in a crony capitalist system.

This corruption can have a trickle-down effect on society as a whole. It can lead to a lack of trust in government institutions, and citizens may become disillusioned with the democratic process.

2. Unfair Business Practices

In a crony capitalist system, businesses that are politically connected can receive special treatment that is not available to other businesses. For example, they may have access to government subsidies, tax breaks, or regulatory exemptions that are not available to their competitors.

This creates an uneven playing field in the marketplace and can stifle innovation and entrepreneurship. Businesses that are not politically connected may struggle to compete and could be forced to close their doors.

Additionally, crony capitalism can lead to an erosion of property rights. In a fair and open marketplace, property owners have the right to own and control their assets. However, in a crony capitalist system, the government may seize assets or award them to politically connected businesses without just compensation.

3. Lack of Competition

Crony capitalism can also lead to a lack of competition in the marketplace. Businesses that are politically connected may be able to use their influence to create barriers to entry for competitors, making it more difficult for new businesses to start up.

This can lead to an increase in prices for consumers as businesses are able to charge more for their products or services without fear of competition. It can also stifle creativity and innovation as businesses are less motivated to improve their products or services in the absence of competition.

In conclusion, while some may argue that crony capitalism can provide benefits to certain individuals or businesses, the negative consequences ultimately outweigh any positives. Corruption, unfair business practices, and a lack of competition in the marketplace can have far-reaching effects on society as a whole.

Examples of Crony Capitalism Around the World

Crony capitalism, also known as corporate socialism, is a term used to describe an economic system where businesses use political connections to gain economic privileges over others. This type of economy fosters an environment where businesses are able to use their money and power to influence government policies and regulations in their favor.

Examples of such systems can easily be found around the world, in both democratic and non-democratic countries alike. Some of these examples include Russia, China, and some African nations.


After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia experienced a period of rapid privatization. While this created a wave of new entrepreneurs and businesses, it also created opportunities for corruption. Many of the newly formed businesses were owned by former government officials or oligarchs who had close ties to the government. This led to a system where political connections were often more important than business acumen when it came to securing contracts and permissions from the government.

This system has been labeled as crony capitalism, and it has resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few individuals. It has also made it difficult for smaller businesses to compete with the larger, wealthier players in the market, leading to a lack of innovation in the country’s economy.


In China, the government maintains tight control over the economy and many businesses are owned by the state. However, there is also a growing private sector in the country, and many of these businesses have formed close relationships with government officials.

The Chinese government has often been accused of providing an unfair advantage to these businesses, particularly when it comes to securing licenses and permits. These businesses also benefit from preferential treatment when it comes to government contracts and subsidies. This has created a system where these businesses are able to outcompete smaller, privately-owned businesses, leading to a lack of diversity in the marketplace and a concentration of wealth among a few individuals.

African Nations

Crony capitalism is also prevalent in many African nations, where the government is often seen as corrupt and ineffective. This has created an environment where businesses are able to use their money and power to sway politicians and secure advantageous economic policies.

In some cases, these businesses are able to take advantage of government contracts and subsidies, often at the expense of the country’s citizens. This has led to a lack of investment in critical areas like education and healthcare, and it has also resulted in a concentration of wealth in the hands of a few elites.

Crony capitalism is a growing concern in many countries around the world. This type of economic system hinders open competition and innovation, and it also creates a system that benefits the few at the expense of the many. With more awareness and a commitment to transparency and fairness, it is possible to create a system that works for everyone.

The Role of Government in Preventing Crony Capitalism

Crony capitalism is a term used to describe a situation where businesses collude with government officials to gain favors and special privileges that are not available to their competitors. This type of capitalism negatively impacts economic growth and harms consumers. However, with the proper laws and regulations in place, governments can prevent crony capitalism from taking root.

Ensuring Transparency

The first way governments can prevent crony capitalism is by ensuring transparency. Transparency means that information about government policies and business transactions is available to the public. This allows individuals and organizations to monitor the actions of government officials and businesses. When officials and businesses know that their actions are being watched, they are less likely to engage in corrupt or unethical behavior.

Governments can promote transparency by creating open data policies, where information about government finances, contracts, and other activities is freely available to the public. They can also create whistleblower protection laws, which allow individuals who report government misconduct to do so without fear of retribution.

Promoting Competition

Promoting competition is another way governments can prevent crony capitalism. When businesses are allowed to compete on a level playing field, they are more likely to innovate, reduce prices, and provide better services to consumers. In contrast, when businesses collude with government officials to create monopolies or gain subsidies, they have little incentive to be competitive.

Governments can promote competition by enforcing anti-monopoly laws and preventing businesses from engaging in anti-competitive practices. They can also provide incentives for new businesses to enter markets, such as tax breaks or subsidies for research and development.

Enforcing Regulations on Businesses

Enforcing regulations on businesses is the last way governments can prevent crony capitalism. Regulations are designed to protect consumers, workers, and the environment. However, when businesses collude with officials, they often disregard regulations or obtain exemptions from them. This puts the public at risk and harms the economy.

Governments can prevent this by creating strong regulatory agencies and enforcing regulations consistently. They can also increase penalties for businesses that violate regulations, and ensure that officials who collude with businesses are appropriately punished.


Crony capitalism is a significant problem that needs to be addressed by governments around the world. By ensuring transparency, promoting competition, and enforcing regulations on businesses, governments can prevent the negative effects of crony capitalism and promote economic growth and prosperity for all.

What is Crony Capitalism?

Crony capitalism is a term used to describe a system in which businesses thrive based on their connections with government officials rather than on their own merit. This type of capitalism is often characterized by corruption and illegitimate business practices, and it ultimately harms economic growth and stability.

Examples of Crony Capitalism

One well-known example of crony capitalism is Russia’s oligarch system, which arose in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union. At this time, many powerful businessmen seized control of the country’s critical assets, such as energy and telecommunications companies, by leveraging their political connections and using corruption to get ahead.

In the United States, some critics argue that the government bailout of financial institutions during the 2008 recession was an example of crony capitalism. The argument goes that the bailout benefitted large financial corporations at the expense of taxpayers, while the top executives of these corporations received large bonuses despite their role in the financial crisis.

The Negative Consequences of Crony Capitalism

One of the biggest problems with crony capitalism is the effect it can have on economic growth. When resources are funneled towards well-connected businesses rather than those that are most efficient and productive, output suffers. This ultimately harms consumers, making it more difficult for them to find quality goods and services at affordable prices.

Another issue with crony capitalism is that it can lead to corruption across an entire society, particularly at the governmental level. Businesses that are closely tied to government officials may engage in unethical behavior, while officials themselves may be susceptible to bribes and other forms of corruption.

The Need to Prevent Crony Capitalism

Despite the many negative effects of crony capitalism, governments are often complicit in its rise. This can be due to the fact that powerful businesses often have significant political influence, which they use to steer public policy in their favor.

To prevent crony capitalism from taking hold, it is important for governments to promote transparency and accountability throughout the economy. This may involve setting strong regulations to prevent monopolies, making sure that businesses are taxed fairly, and preventing conflicts of interest among government officials.


Crony capitalism is a clear example of the ways in which capitalism can go wrong. By prioritizing political connections over hard work and productivity, it ultimately harms economic growth and stability while fostering corruption and unethical behavior. To prevent its spread, governments must act to promote fair business practices and prevent conflicts of interest among those in positions of power.

Originally posted 2023-06-16 14:33:04.

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