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Sunday, January 24, 2016

 

The Naked and the Right

One of the interesting aspects of the Trump Effect is how the members of Red Team, who used to lecture us about solidarity in the face of the Obama onslaught, are now stabbing their teammates in the back. Trump people are “trumpkins” and in a cult of personality. They declare that Trump is not a conservative as if that makes him a pagan who likes human sacrifice.

Read the comments of any Trump story and you inevitably see a group of mouth breathers railing about Trump not being a conservative. The word “conservative” has meant whatever the party bosses want for so long, most people can’t remember what it used to mean. It has become an abracadabra word that means “good” or “bad” depending upon the person using it.

[referring to a blogger who denounces Trump for wanting Apple to produce it's products in this country]

I’m unfamiliar with the blogger and I’m sure he is a peach of a fellow, but like many people, he seems to confuse libertarian with conservative. He’s also confused about what conservatism says about capitalism and markets. That’s a common failing among the politically active. It turns his comments about tribalism into a bit of self-parody, but maybe it is intentional in order to generate comments.

The confusion over free markets versus capitalism should be blamed on libertarians, who find it comforting to confuse the two. Free markets are an academic concept. They have never existed on earth. There are always external forces at work on the market participants. It turns out that humans have this thing called culture and culture shapes the market place by placing rules on the participants, either formally or informally.

Capitalism simply means private ownership of the means of production for the purpose of producing private profit. Put another way, it is the appropriation of capital (property, money, labor, etc.) by some to the exclusion of others. Just as there are no completely free market economies, no modern state is purely capitalist. There is always some degree of public ownership.

The point here is that you can have capitalism with all sorts of government interventions and you can have a market economy with loads of state regulation. What defines the Right is not whether there is a debate over these issues. The Right is defined by who decides and how. It is libertarians who argue that issues like trade and regulation are beyond the pale and can never be debated.

...

To some degree it is understandable that people like that blogger would think it is all about economics. Again, this is the libertarian poison that has oozed into the bloodstream of the Right. Since the Republicans are afraid to discuss culture, they have retreated into synthetic debates over free markets and free trade. You never have to worry about the Left calling you names if you are on the side of Apple, even if Apple is using slaves to make their products.

That I suspect is why so many are so vexed by Donald Trump. His campaign is forcing a debate about what it means to be a conservative. This is bad for the technocrats and the libertarians. Both camps operate from the assumption that culture is meaningless and can be plowed under in the quest for power, material goods or economic efficiency. It’s also a handy way of steering clear of the social justice warriors.

... We’re suddenly finding out who is and who is not on the Right. The libertarians are swimming back to their island and the technocrats are waddling back over to the Left.

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