Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Vox Popoli: Market vs society

The Z-Man considers the way in which conservatism now attempts to conserve the market rather than the society:

If one were to summarize why Buckley-style conservatism failed, the clearest answer is that it stopped being conservative. The central tenets of conservatism are tradition, organic society, hierarchy, authority, property rights and prudence. In the Anglo-Saxon model, ordered liberty can also be included. The limits on authority are the logic of a fixed and orderly legal system. Probably the most concise explanation of American conservatism came from Russel Kirk seventy years ago.

Buckley conservatism, in contrast, was never deeply rooted in social philosophy and this was a deliberate act. The Buckleyites wanted a create a political movement that could compete with Progressives. In order to do that it meant winning elections and that meant providing a practical platform for governance. As a result, Buckley conservatism was always a compromise. In order to fashion a practical political platform, it meant deviating from conservative dogma as necessity required.

This lack of ideological moorings, however, led it to drift away from conservatism toward something that is better described as marketism. Libertarians see property as the key to individual liberty. All human rights derive from ownership of self and property is the fruit of labor, so absolute property rights safeguard individual liberty. Marketism, in contrast, views liberty as the unfettered right to trade property and labor. Therefore, liberty is maximized only through the free and unregulated marketplace.

In both cases, the definition of individual liberty is at odds with conservative conceptions of individual liberty, as well as the tenets of conservatism. The Right has always understood that a man could only be free within the context of society. To exist within a society, he must gain control of his passions and master himself. Customs and traditions, which habituated him to his duties as a member of society, also channeled his energies to that which served the good of his society.

This doesn't address the entirety of the problem, but it is a good start. The reality is that Kirk-style conservatism was every bit as doomed, even if it didn't stop being conservative, because it is not a coherent political philosophy, it is only an attitude.

Of course, that which by any name conserves nothing will not be able to conserve the free market because it did not conserve the society that values free markets.