Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Praise of Left Conservatism

The last time I heard the phrase "left conservative," it was
being used by Norman Mailer, who was was describing, a little fuzzily, his political views. (These seemed to include being in favor of the existence of God and against the corporation, but he wasn't entirely specific.) In a recent essay in the The Point, Jonny Thakkar revives the idea. "If they want to be consistent," Thakkar writes, "conservatives really ought to be anti-capitalist." 

Thakkar's rationale is  straightforward. Capitalism is predicated on an expectation of endless growth. Capitalists are forever trying to out-innovate and out-produce the other in the hopes of making money. In the process, they develop new forms of technology, which necessarily change the social relations within the society. "In every single generation," Thakkar writes, "certain institutions will become obsolete, and with them their attendant practices and values." 

For classical conservatives, who believe, as Edmund Burke did, that progress should be slow, modest, and above all incremental, this should present a problem. A society which reinvents itself with each passing generation is by nature a progressive one. The existence of capitalism assures such reinvention. Why then, in modern times, have conservatives aligned themselves with capitalists?

Thakkar believes it has something to do with the Cold War, when communism presented an existential threat to the United States and patriotism, typically a conservative virtue, was made inseparable from capitalism. Thakkar, however, is no communist. "No one believes in a planned economy anymore," he writes. "Most anti-capitalists now believe in the sort of regulated capitalism one finds in Scandinavia, where government intervenes only in the modest goal of making a country's economy serve its citizens and not the other way around."

You should really read
the whole thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment