White Collar Conservative Flashing Down the Street--Not!
Dreher says, in an interview, that Crunchy Cons object to the "free market" and to mainstream conservatism's emphasis on "economic liberty" (Hat tip to Ken Gregg on LeftLibertarian). He continues:
Beauty is more important than efficiency. Small, local, old and particular are almost always better than big, global, new and abstract.
He ignores the possibility that "big, global, new and abstract" might owe more to the "free market" than to the free market. And that mainstream conservatives are fonder of the version of "free markets" in quotation marks than of the real thing. It might be that the "small, local, old and particular" weren't driven out by the superior "efficiency" of big government and big business, but because their inefficiency was subsidized.
Dreher goes on to say:
I'd also add that we've gotten to a point in our politics today where the left and the right are too quick to slap a negative label on a challenging or unfamiliar idea, so they don't have to deal with it.
You mean like free markets? Like Thomas Frank, the Crunchy Cons use the term "free market" as a devil-term, when I suspect what they really hate is not free markets, but the kind of people who (unfortunately) talk the most about them. If I thought what Thatcher and Reagan were for was "free markets," man, I'd hate them too!
Consider this CrunchyCon post that Jesse sent me a link to:
The claim that trads and crunchy cons are “liberal” for valuing families and local associations is based in the myth (at best) that destructive big business “just happens” because it is “efficient.”
....[M]y point is historical. The government intentionally went after states and localities during the nineteenth century in the name of “national markets.” The state, not some magical creature called “the market” destroyed the ability of families, towns, small companies, and other local, human associations to control their own destinies.
Well, as Ross Perot would say, I'm with him so far. So how does he get from the astute observation above to referring to such government action as "libertarian"?!!
The old liberals/libertarians of the late nineteenth century undermined local associations in the name of freedom of contract; now the new liberals do it in the name of individual choice. But it’s all of a piece — hostility toward any kind of community, any association that gets in the way of the state organizing society to maximize individual (and only individual) choice. One of the serious challenges we face is showing people how markets are no less social artifacts (they are institutions, after all) than towns and families. Markets are created and regulated by laws (what is an enforceable contract? Laws and government define and enforce them). So we should treat them as what they are, merely parts of an overall society made up of many, many institutions and communities, each of which is worthy of respect and protection—but families most of all.
There's no point even getting into the utter perversity of referring to government promotion of Robber Baron capitalism as "libertarian." As Limbaugh says, "words mean things." But aside from that, let's see....
First of all, the only way that "individual choice" could undermine local associations is if their survival depended on the coercion of unwilling members. If the Burkean stuff can't cut it under those conditions, so much the worse for it.
Second, exactly what does "social artifact" mean? For the stereotypical atomist libertarian who takes methodological individualism to the point of saying "society doesn't exist," I guess that phrase is supposed to be like waving a crucifix in Dracula's face. But for anyone with even a minimum of common sense, there's plenty of room for an understanding of "society" as a pattern of voluntary interactions between individuals. Markets, like towns and families, are created by voluntary association. As far as I'm concerned, that's another way of saying they're "social artifacts." But it's a far cry from saying they're necessarily creations of the state. There's no reason I can think of that contracts can't be enforced by voluntary association. That's especially true when the parties live in the same community and depend on repeat business and word of mouth for their livelihoods. And there's no reason that making arrangements for enforcement, perhaps by some agreed-upon third party, shouldn't be part of negotiating a contract. Contracts may be enforced by "society," in the sense of the realm of voluntary association, but do they necessarily have to be enforced by a body that claims the right to initiate force?
Third, if we take "market" in the broad sense of the realm of voluntary association, rather than coercion, then the family and community are a perfectly natural part of a free market order. As I argued in my earlier post, the problem is the tendency to identify the market narrowly as being coextensive with the cash nexus.
Like the distributists, apparently no small influence on their philosophy, the Crunch Cons appear, mistakenly, to view the evils they object to in present-day corporate capitalism as results of the free market, rather than of state intervention in the market. If they would actually stop to think about the implications of what they're saying, they might decide the free market is an ally rather than an enemy.