Friday, July 30, 2010

Conservatism and the Free Market

It always amazes me, being familiar with the history of political thought, when conservative book companies put out book after book about conservative social values and then complement them by a few fawning books about the free market. The reason for this is that conservatism, as originally established, was anti-free market. The folks who held this position weren't holding it out of any special concern for social justice but because they were the aristocrats and the beneficiaries of the feudal system and saw the liberals and the small scale businessmen as threats to their authority. Liberalism and capitalism were thoroughly linked for a while, and not just in the sort of almost mechanistic Libertarian way we see today: liberals actually believed that the free market would lead to social justice. Support of the free market only became labeled as a conservative position after the rise of socialist movements in the 19th century. More common was a sort of hybrid ideology that advocated conservative social values along with a semi-free market, the same thought that informs today's conservatism, but in the era in which it emerged, the 19th century mostly, it wasn't viewed as pure conservatism but instead as a sort of 'Third Way' between conservatism and liberalism. It had influence both in the United States, France, and in the United Kingdom.

But folks on the conservative right don't seem to comprehend that some of what they're advocating is either a compromise position or is in fact incompatible with their hard line theocratic social values. How could a Biblical society also be a free market capitalist one? What happens when someone wants to open a sex shop based on free market principles? Or print ungodly literature? How does the concept of Tithing, which was originally there not to buy Evangelical ministers mansions but to help the poor, coincide with this free market paradise?

In any case, what they're advocating makes little sense when taken together, unless of course your unconscious aim is to provide cover for a corporatist system, where things like bad opinions coming from a free system wouldn't have much of a chance of getting off the ground. See the Tea Party for details on this one.

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