Tuesday, August 21, 2018

A Free Market Fantasy

(Some) Americans, especially those of the baby boomer generation, seem to have this strange idea that the government is always the source of all problems, any form of government regulation is always bad, and if everything was in private hands, without any central authority overseeing it, life would be wonderful. Such society, I am told, exists in countries like Somalia, but conservatives don't haste to move over there, but prefer to stay in the first-world countries, governed by strong central authorities, instead of local warlords.

This mentality ties down nicely with "rugged individualism" I mentioned last week. Ultimately, that's the reason why the conservatives have been losing one battle after another. The recent one is that of freedom of expression on the internet. Internet was built with the US taxpayers money and the tech companies get government subsidies, yet when someone gets censored, too many conservatives jump to defend this violation of freedom of speech saying that "private companies should be allowed to do what they want."

Seriously? Should a telephone company be able to cut off your mobile for posting wrongthink on your blog? Energy company cutting off your heat supply in the middle of the winter for wrong tweets? Where does it end, really? Folks were told that if they didn't like it, they should build their own platforms. They went and did, and now these platforms, like BitChute, are being demonetised.

An interesting thing is that populist parties in Europe often combine hard-line positions on immigration or social issues with somewhat socialist views on economics. I remember reading C.S. Lewis once (I think it was in Mere Christianity) where he wrote that an ideal Christian society would have a combination of rigid medieval hierarchy with more socialist economic policies.

Now modern welfare state has its own problems, partly because it often rewards anti-social behaviours. I'll give you an example. In the 1930s and earlier, in my country, if a woman got a child out of wedlock, he would be put into an institution and while the government paid most of the expenses, she had to work, too, and to contribute to her child's upkeep and education. If she married, the duty would be her husband's, and he had to pay more, since men's salaries were higher.

The child didn't starve and got a decent education, but the mother didn't profit by it, either. In the 19th century, in many countries, an unwed mother would get nothing at all and was often reduced to poverty and prostitution. Again, she hardly profited by what she had done. Yet, she was free to do it because no law forbade sex outside marriage. It was a libertarian paradise, with the government staying totally out of the situation. Not forcing mother to do anything. But she had to pay her own bills.

Nowadays we have libertarian morals with pre-war government subsidies. It obviously doesn't work as intended, but let's be honest, few modern people would want to go back to little children starving in the streets or slaving in the factories because of the sins of their parents. Thus, a libertarian solution is an utopian one which won't work in this time and age.

I'm always amused at how common folks in America, often living paycheck-to-paycheck and in debt, were persuaded that conservatism is all about tax cuts for the rich and similar stuff. Conservatism should be about conserving traditional societies, not deregulating banks and making fat cats fatter. Any policy which makes life better for traditional, decent folks is conservative. How many mothers would be encouraged to stay home if they didn't have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for things like health care coverage and were guaranteed a widow pension if the husband died?

Another example has to do with marriage. Do you still remember the slogan of the recent years: "let the government stay out of marriage". Lets take it to the logical end. The government stays completely out of marriage. Private parties are allowed to make their own contracts. Then one of the parties breaks it. What happens next? Who is going to enforce the terms of this contract? The duped individual? By which means? Or maybe, his or her family? What will be the end result of it? Clan warfare? Again, the libertarian solution is purely utopian in nature.

The funny thing is, that the (US) government already regulates things like health care. You usually don't buy "care", you buy insurance, from an insurance company. Plus, there are legions of subsidies and rules of all sorts involved. Thus, those who opt to have no insurance, will often use ER which is for free, but someone will have to foot the bill in the end. I'm not saying that something like NHS is so much better, but the topic of what works best should be at least, open to discussion. It's not as black-and-white as some would like it to be.

If something doesn't work as intended, and even produces the opposite result, it's time to re-think your options.


  1. I agree with C.S. Lewis.

  2. I should add that the word "socialist" has a rather negative connotations. "Third way" may be better.

  3. Hear, hear!

    The difficulty with American conservatism is that ultimately, it's attempting to conserve America's liberal tradition.

    That is a contradiction at the heart of American conservatism which cannot be resolved. Dissolving the monarchy and breaking with Britain was a fundamental change that separates America from countries like Canada which stayed within the British tradition in terms of monarchy and an organic conservatism that rejects 18th century liberalism.

  4. It's always interesting to hear a different perspective! Sometimes when we say "America", we tend to forget that Canada is a part of North America as well:)

    I do think that a republic can also have a conservative tradition, after all a republican Rome was pretty hardcore. Britain, unfortunately, doesn't appear to be doing any better than their American cousins, if anything, it looks worse in some aspects.

  5. Alas, Britain and Canada and Australia and New Zealand have lost their way, too... Same as the rest of the West.

  6. One by one the free lands of Middle Earth fell to the power of The Ring but there were some who resisted...

    Sauron, the original globalist:)