Last week’s edition of Lazy Sunday—“Lazy Sunday IX: Economics, Part I“—featured four pieces about economics. As I wrote last week, my thinking on economics has evolved by degrees over the past decade. To summarize: I used to think that (mostly) unbridled capitalism could solve most of society’s problems through ever-more-efficient allocation of resources.
Now, I’d argue that capitalism is a great system that should benefit people, but which we shouldn’t worship as a panacea. Put another way: we shouldn’t be sacrificing people’s livelihoods and communities on the altar of efficiency.
Naturally, there’s a great deal of room for nuance in that position, and it opens up a tricky question: who gets to make the decisions that ameliorate some of the excesses and disruptive side effects of capitalism? What’s the limiting principle at play?
These are important questions, but their difficulty should not lead us to resignation—to worship efficiency by default. This week’s three pieces are my small contributions to that discussion:
- “TBT: Capitalism Needs Social Conservatism” – this piece dates back to the old TPP website, from the TPP 2.0 Era, and I consider it one of the most important essays I’ve ever written. Social conservatives are the punching-bag of the modern Right, and the least-respected “leg” of the traditional Republican Party “tripod” coalition between social, economic, and national security conservatives.
That’s a shame, because without the values of social conservatism, capitalism cannot long endure. Without traditional morality, capitalism becomes an asset-stripping free-for-all: employers have no obligation to their employees beyond a crude economic exchange of value; businesses can cheat on contracts when they coldly calculate it’s worth the potential costs; and human life, especially unborn life, is valued in dollars, not spiritual worth.
- “Tucker Carlson’s Diagnosis” – Fox News host Tucker Carlson eloquently and forcefully expressed some of the ideas implied in the previous bullet point in a powerful monologue back in January 2019. Carlson has become a major paleoconservative voice, one that offers a much-needed counterbalance to the capitalism-as-highest-good mentality dominant in the Republican Party.
That Carlson’s show is highly popular demonstrates that these ideas have legs politically. Again, Carlson doesn’t have a beef with capitalism, per se, but believes it should work for us, not the other way around. This monologue powerfully points out how our elites have thrown the rest of us over the bus, and are enjoying the fruits of their corporatist, globalist schemes. It’s a must-watch.
- “April Fool’s Day: A Retrospective” – this piece is a bit of a personal essay, looking back to 1 April 2009, the day I found out my teaching contract would not be renewed for another year. It’s easy to forget how awful the years of the Great Recession were, and how bad the “recovery” was under President Obama. This piece also serves as a nice counterbalance to the other two: it shows how important robust economic growth is to sustaining strong societies. If social conservatism is necessary to foster economic growth, that growth makes it easier for families to gain self-sufficiency (so long as we avoid the easy traps of prosperity).
There you have it—more essays on economics, a field we should consider a human science—part of the humanities—not a cold, deterministic hard science (the essay linked in this sentence, “Economics: A Human Science,” is another strong contender for today’s compilation).
Get out there and hustle!
Other Lazy Sunday Installments: