Since Tucker Carlson’s January 3 monologue, an old clash has re-emerged between free market-oriented conservatives, and traditional conservatives who favour (where necessary), more government intervention in economic affairs.
In essence, this intra-conservative dispute hinges on whether national interests should supersede economic dogma, when market forces harm the nation. The battle lines have thus been drawn: traditional conservatives view the national good as a superior calling; whereas free-marketeers believe individual economic freedom holds primacy over national wellbeing, in the event of discordance.
Now, in defence of said free-marketeers–of which, I was once an ostensible adherent of–the free market can yield considerable positive consequences. It can enhance efficiency; reduce prices; channel human selfishness towards productive, peaceful ends. Furthermore, when free-marketeers speak of stimulating economic growth–notwithstanding they threaten core national interests–I principally agree higher GDP figures are probably preferable.
But this is distinct from the quintessential IPA view, that economic growth is necessarily desirable.
In critiquing this case, Tucker Carlson’s description rings true: economic systems were created by man and hence exist to serve man. As tools, economic systems don’t possess rights in and of themselves; even comparing to our racial, civilisational, political and cultural duties to put our own people first. When market forces/incentives instituted to help us cause tangible damage–mass immigration, free trade, working women, foreign ownership, financial and environmental calamities–we should put our people first, and appropriately constrain these economic pressures.
Besides being human creations, markets are secured by human forces–an all-too often neglected reality. Free traders of the National Review and IPA ilk commonly object to protectionist measures. They insist “government can’t tell me who I can and can’t do business with.” Yet here the free trader carries a grossly inflated sense of his own importance. Rather than individual ingenuinity; the presence of compulsory, functional government where illegal behaviour is punished and contracts are enforced, is more pertinent to why people can consistently buy and sell goods. For despite Mitt Romney exalting ‘free enterprise’, how would his own economic fortunes have otherwise fared in Somalia?
If a national government upholds our very economic and physical security, it is morally entitled to impinge upon our individual ‘freedom’ to buy 1 dollar plastic folders from Kmart, to cultivate vital national interests.
Not that seeking cheap goods and augmenting personal wealth should be all that celebrated. True, cheaper goods and supplementary wealth can provide comfort as well as enhance freedom (in the liberal sense, at least). So they may be viewed as useful pursuits to that extent. But these materialistic behaviours don’t make us happy; bring fulfilment; create genuine autonomy; further societal harmony; fill communities or individuals with salient sources of meaning.
Given high rates of depression, nihilism, suicide and drug-abuse amid these material-abundant times, unmooring our hedonistic capacities from all government interference certainly won’t advance a dignified, rewarding existence.
Broadly on resolving disagreement between individual and collective economic interests, I would restate the following:
Because the collective is more substantial in number than the individual, it necessarily derives further rights and importance.
Accordingly, when individual interests cannot be assuaged, core national interests on economic affairs–decreased foreign ownership, reduced trade from hostile countries–should be pursued first.