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Friday, 10 June 2016

Thoughts on Economic Guilt, and Conservatism

Let us please stop claiming we can fix the economy.... Or that conservatives or liberals or the NDP (substitute foreign alternatives as necessary) can somehow stabilize, fix, or destroy the economy in an election cycle


I am sick of hearing, reading, and in fact, being told on a consistent basis that the government can or some how must fix the economy. Perhaps it is the Hayekian in me, but I find it laughable that you can some how assert anything but marginal control over an unconscious process composed of millions of actors working independently within a system of incentives. Yet, with every election cycle, and every new government we must listen to the pontificating of the pundits proclaiming that the incumbent government must "fix" our economy. For example, the Notley NDP for all their odious work in Alberta have not been the only harbingers of economic decline. The Alberta government has arrived precisely as the Saudi government decided to drown the American oil industry and hopefully starve shale oil before it truly takes off and energy independence for America is assured. The Trudeau government, though still planning to flood our country with cheap migrant labour, has also arrived at the lowest point in Canada's industrial history. Free trade, and NAFTA have annihilated the manufacturing sector in this country and that was more Harper and Mulroney then it was Trudeau junior. The point is these are macro factors initiated over decades by multiple parties in Ottawa and forces beyond. The particularities can be adjusted through prudent legislation but they are by no means within the control of the government in any real sense.

We can stop blaming the government's for its failure at fixing the economy and instead ask what system of incentives changed so that our once flourishing and diverse economy has devolved back into hewers of timber and branch plant industries? I'll tell you who is to blame, continentalists, free traders, and progressives, who are slaves to integration and profit.


This leads me further to another question: why exactly are conservatives capitalists? Historically speaking, conservatives have only been free-marketeers in the sense of microeconomics and local industries. This is because profit holds no sympathy for things that do not lend themselves to the profit motive and the increase of commodity. True conservatism is not materialist, but rather historical and nationalist in its orientation.

Aquinas was insightful when like Aristotle, he noted that the institutions of society, moneymaking, law, etc... must necessarily subordinate themselves to the community, but this is not what liberalism teachs rather it fetishizes autonomy at the expense of the communal. The profit motive, and the abscence of normative ethics, and hence commodity becoming the measure of the good life, are all natural extensions of the assignment of values and perspective to man as the individual not as a natural progeny of the communal order.

The cross breeding of classical liberalism and Burkean conservatism has lead us to the place we are at, but the free market itself is only useful in such a way that it fashions a structure through which the hardworking and independent should theoretically prosper whilst the government should, ideally speaking, minimize its interference with community unit that are capable making their own money and exchange it in an efficient fashion for the necessities of life. However, there is no conceivable way that the classical liberals or the traditionalist conservatives could conceive of the corporatist state as it now exists. Neither, it seems to great interest in the fact that corporate interests and government interests would harmonize for the exploitation of the family, history, faith, and nation.

Conservatives are capitalists insofar as there is no other 'better' alternative; they are skeptical and nationalist capitalists, who need not fear the insights of socialism or liberalism, but rather temper the great emptiness of the liberal void through emphasis upon the things which are historical and eternal. Capitalism just happens to be the most efficient way to organize resources are procure the necessities of life, but it in and of itself does not provide the necessary substance of the good or fulfilling life itself.


This brings me to the conservative position of capitalism and the free-market, which may be tentatively stated as such: the market must continue to exist as freely as possible as it is the most natural and efficient way to enhance the comfort of those living in a society, but this comfort is to be prefaced on the capacity for the society to engage in contemplation, worship, reverence, and charity. Like Aristotle noted in The Politics when writing about the necessity of slavery, slavery itself is only necessary because we lacked other sources of labour capable of freeing man for a contemplative and life in pursuit of virtue.

I'm rambling. infinitely more could be said. I would have loved to write about Rousseau and Marx, but I'm lazy and this is a blog.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

The Unwinding and Where Profit Takes You


I just finished reading The Unwinding By George Packer. Overall it was an excellent book, perhaps a little long winded. It focused on a eclectic set of stories from big names like New Gingrich, Jay-Z and Oprah, to the lesser known Dean Price, Jeff Connaughton, the Hartzell family, and community organizer Tammy Thomas. The narratives really are captivating, but by halfway through the book, which covers the decades between 1970-2010 I found myself wishing for a premature conclusion or some type of synopsis. This book was 430 pages and I felt every one of them by the time I closed it. There were just too many characters to follow and enjoy. Too many vignettes, they began to blend after awhile. Still Packer does an excellent job in keeping the reader more or less invested in the individuals. Being a journalist, its obvious Packer collected much of his research from 1 on 1 interviews and this shows with the abundance of dialogue. However, the lack of footnotes and citations is an obvious downside. Even an index would be appreciated. I found myself making my own, but I stopped halfway through. I found I felt unsure of whether to read the book as a narrative and just enjoy it, or try to extract some kind of analysis.  


Once all these tales are collected, and you reach approximately a third of the way through a number of conclusions seem to jump out. Among them, that it is, and was, nearly impossible to attribute any direct culpability to the massive financial crisis that rocked the United States in 2008. It really was just people responding to incentives whether you were a poor homeowner or drafting legislation in congress. Everyone saw immediate benefit at the expense of sustainability. The toxic growth mindset infects the crescendo of the 1980's and early 1990's where booming Tampa is contrasted with dying Youngstown. The old with its character, its history, its stability, and its uniqueness, is left in ruins while the maze of roadways extends like twisting tentacles into the Florida countryside. That is the picture of a dying America, one where the old and the meaningful built on generations is passed over for the heavily mortgaged Mcmansion constructed upon the shifting swamp, but it made people happy then, and it makes them happy now. The book succeeds in how it draws the insular experience of diverse individuals across the United States and collects them into a meta-narrative that succeeds in warning against the fast dollar and the unhinged economy; the book warns of the dangers of both the immense and disconnected state and the mammoth and frigid force of the relentlessly hungry corporate growth machine. 


Absolutely. Packer brings stories from across socio-economic class, race, gender, and political affiliation and unites them, consciously, or otherwise, into a careful warning. One I perceive to be that of never taking the value of the preexisting for granted. Packer paints a picture of an America that took 200 years to build and a half century to destroy.