As a counterpoint to yesterday’s quip from John Médaille, R.R. Reno wrote recently:
I don’t see much future for American conservatism until we wake up from our dreams of oppression. Conservative worries about “socialism” are patently absurd. At its worst it reflects a strange mental derangement that confuses ideals (the complete absence of barriers and regulatory friction) with realities (the dramatic growth of economic and political freedom over the last thirty years). The more mild instances of delusion stem from an inability to see the forest for the trees. Yes, health care in America is being rolled into an almost comprehensive national regulatory scheme, but that’s only a small part of the picture. (And a complicated part: American health care in the past has never been thoroughly organized by free-market forces.)
If we wake up from our dreams we’ll see what the postmodern left already sees, which is that the explosive growth of economic freedom in recent decades has created two very large social problems.
• Greater economic freedom has brought greater economic inequality, as it always has in the modern era. Those with sufficient capital, talent, and ambition are able to use their greater freedom to exploit opportunities and capture efficiencies. Others fall behind. This is a threat to social solidarity.
• Greater economic freedom accelerates the rate of creative destruction, again, as it always has in the modern era. This means that communities, and even nations, organized around existing industries and types of employment are increasingly vulnerable to dislocation and disintegration. This too is a threat to social stability.
These are not economic problems, and therefore cannot be addressed by increasing economic freedom, as the Romney campaign imagined.
Andrew Fulford is currently studying for a PhD in Reformation history.
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