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Is Capitalism Conservative? By: Robert Locke
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, November 03, 2000


THE FALL OF THE BERLIN WALL uncovered a number of political fault lines that were covered up by the massive fact of world communism.

One of these fault lines, which is only beginning to be visible in the US, runs where people least expect it: between capitalism and conservatism.

Those who remember the history of 19th-century Europe, or even of our own Southern Agrarians, know full well that conservatives and capitalists have not always seen eye-to-eye. But the need to fight communism and socialism forced them together, and this marriage has lasted so long that most American conservatives have forgotten there was ever a difference.

It is a commonplace from one end of the political spectrum to the other that "Big Business" is naturally allied with conservatism. But the fact is that Big Business is today on the left on every important issue that does not directly affect their profits. They vigorously support affirmative action, would gladly hand out benefits to gay partners, and supported Hillary Clinton's plan to socialize American medicine. They would like to compromise with and sell to foreign regimes that are hostile to us. A recent article in Fortune reports not only that CEOs of the top 50 Internet and e-commerce companies favor Gore over Bush 53% to 30%, but that their number-one issue is - guess what - increased immigration quotas. (10/30/00 p.66)

The emerging ideology of big business is to tack wildly to the left on non-economic issues in order to be able to tack wildly to the right on economic ones. Thus they promote racial "diversity" and cultural hipness to draw an egalitarian veil over continually increasing income inequality. It is this perverse alliance of the social and cultural Left and the economic Right that is driving American society today.

And yet the Wall Street Journal and its friends on Capitol Hill continue blithely exploiting the presumption among conservative voters that anything that furthers the cause of capitalism furthers the conservative cause.

This fraud must stop, and conservatives must stop their uncritical support of the big-business agenda.

The "business" opposition to the left comes mainly from owners of small businesses, or from large businesses that are still run by their original entrepreneurs who built them up from small businesses. Compare, for example, the editorial positions of Investor's Business Daily, still run by its founder, with the Journal. It is worth noting that Karl Marx never uses the word capitalism; he always referred to bourgeois society, knowing full well that there is a difference. People think that the Silicon Valley trend of punk CEOs who enthuse about change and chaos are a superficial phenomenon. Not so.

Bill Clinton, ever with his finger in the wind, was one of the first people to figure this out. The first fruit of this insight was his pal Ron Brown's rebuilding of the finances of the Democratic party as party chairman in the early 1990's by hitting up big business in a way that only Republicans had done before.

Big business, not the bleeding hearts at the UN, is the driving force behind globalism. They see the nation-state as fundamentally obsolete and as merely an impediment to their profits. This is not an accusation: many of them openly say so in their annual reports. They brag about being "transnational" companies which have no particular loyalty to any one of the countries in which they do business. Boeing, for example, has been particularly explicit about this. And then people are surprised when they sell military satellite technology to Red China. Was the 20th century not enough to teach us that people mean what they say?

Big business used to be pro-American because America was uniquely the place where big business came of age, and because it was the only nation strong enough to fight world communism. But with skyscrapers gracing the skyline of Jakarta, and no communist threat, there is no longer any intrinsic reason for capitalists to be loyal to America.

In the end, they won't be. Our only hope is that capitalists are human, and that they have other loyalties than to their economic interests.

It is quite a shock for Americans to face the fact that capitalism is no longer on our side, because we have a long history of seeing it as a key component of our national identity, particularly as warped by the Cold War.

The question conservatives must ask at this point is, what to propose as an alternative to capitalism, given that capitalism is the best producer of goods and services and that all existing alternatives are just watered socialism?

What post-cold-war conservatives should stand for is free-market capitalism on purely economic issues, plus strong non-economic institutions. What all these institutions have in common is that they impose a certain social order in the name of certain values, but they are not for sale for money. The institutions I have in mind:

The Family
The Church
The Military
High Culture
Our Traditions
American Ethnicity
The Nation

Naturally, all these things are susceptible to corruption by economic values, but their essential purposes are not economic, and frequently contrary to pure economic efficiency. They are not capitalist, but they are not socialist either. This is a key point when every objection to the liquidation of our society in the name of the almighty dollar is met with the epithet "socialist."

We should aim to be a capitalist economy, but not a capitalist society.

For example, maximizing economic output would imply sending mothers to work outside the home. Asserting the family as a non-economic value would imply the opposite.

No one but ole' Karl M. himself will dispute that the church stands for non-economic values.

The significance of the military should be obvious. When global business interests are threatened, they call the US Marines, not J.P. Morgan. Men will fight and die for their country; no amount of money could ever be enough to replace this motive. The spectacle of American soldiers fighting to defend a globalist government whose own Secretary of State has said the nation state is obsolete is the saddest farce of the New World Order.

It is in the nature of globalist capitalism to drive culture to that lowest common denominator that can be sold globally. It is in the nature of high cultures that they require culture, that is cultivation, in a particular tradition, and are thus local and usually unprofitable. Thus high culture is conservative.

American ethnicity, as anyone who has traveled abroad knows, is a real and valid thing. This is the ethnic identity that Americans should cherish, in opposition to separatism and identity politics.

The final institution that must be defended against global capitalism is the nation itself. America is singularly vulnerable to national liquidation, with its global language, open borders, greedy business elite, compliant politicians, and lack of a community-defining high culture. America is also so drunk on its own power as to lack a needed feeling of vulnerability. It is time for us to recognize that the meaning of American exceptionalism has flipped, and our traditions of openness which once made us the envy of the world are now increasingly being used against the very existence of the nation that spawned them.

If we are not careful, this will not be a problem for long.

Footnote: I hereby predict that at least one Ayn-Rand-addled critic of this article will accuse me of wanting to go back to the Dark Ages, to feudalism, or of being anti-technology. Not so. Libertarianism is the utopian socialism of the Right.

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