Friday, August 23, 2019

"National Conservatism" v. Homo Economicus

This essay is a fairly good summary of the current "national conservatism" v. "economic man" imbroglio.  Since it reinforces my thoughts about men who wear bow ties *cough* George Will *cough* it starts out very well indeed.  Even so, the author doesn't attempt to nail down the underlying problem.

The author finds a Williamson essay in NR next to an essay of the bow tie man, and compares....

....Williamson diagnoses what Will ignores: the technological and economic developments that gave us the iPhone and Uber have “upset longstanding social arrangements and put longstanding status relationships up for renegotiation.” According to this analysis, the economic policies that conservatives have promoted have undermined the social and cultural order that conservatism sought to preserve....As he puts it, “An economy that rewards geographic mobility, professional flexibility, and financial risk-taking brings unintended social consequences with it, from undermining local relationships and civil society to encouraging norms of delayed marriage and parenthood.”...
We highlighted the MOST important consequence.

So why did that happen??  Because of homo economicus--the libertarian economic system which has eaten 'conservatism' and now lives in its old dwelling.

...Economics is a science of individualism. True conservatives have a soft spot in their hearts for organic collectivity. It is small wonder that there is no truly conservative economic doctrine. True conservatives think people spend too much time thinking and acting “economically” in the United States, which has always encouraged individualism, ambition, and mobility at the expense of stability and community. Thus real conservatism has been a marginal and primarily cultural school of criticism....
(One could quibble about labeling 'economics' as a 'science,' but this ain't the place.)

So what's that underlying problem I mentioned?  It is this:  neither the author, nor Williamson, nor Will, consider the spiritual problem.  To a greater or lesser degree, all of them still identify mankind as 'homo economicus,' and that's--at the very best--incomplete.  "Why are we here?" is not answered with "To collect the most toys!", but also not "To have a happy family and community."

The answer was given by Aristotle, and it begins with "virtue," (which was not only moral.)  Christianity clarified 'what is virtue' so that "earning Heaven" became "Why we are here."

The hardest part, then, is determining how much any government policy should advance that end without becoming a theocracy.

Good luck!

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