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.
This post I saw linked on Maggie’s Farm this morning is a good example.
For a long time I have hypothesized (and worried) that the average Republican / Conservative’s support for free markets was merely tribal — the team’s official position was pro-free market, so individuals supported the team’s position without actually, really understanding it. I have developed this hypothesis after a lot of private discussions with Conservatives who have betrayed many of the same economic mis-conceptions and bits of ignorance that drive much bad interventionist government policy.
Speaking at Liberty University today, Trump escalated his rhetoric on Apple’s overseas manufacturing, and claimed somehow the US would reclaim those jobs in the future. “We have such amazing people in this country: smart, sharp, energetic, they’re amazing,” Trump said. “I was saying make America great again, and I actually think we can say now, and I really believe this, we’re gonna get things coming… we’re gonna get Apple to start building their damn computers and things in this country, instead of in other countries.”
So the Republican who is currently leading in the polls (among Republican voters, mind you) supports government intervention in a successful company’s manufacturing and sourcing decisions. Which just reinforces my view that we are dealing with the Coke and Pepsi party. Heads we get statism, tails we get statism.
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.
More important, the Right debates public policy within the context of culture. There is a general acceptance of the human condition. The ways of the people in Poland will differ from the those in Canada. One may produce greater material wealth, but the other may produce greater tranquility. There’s no universally right answer, just what the people in those cultures prefer. Conservatives accept that people want to live they way they want to live.
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.
There’s an old gag in in finance that goes, “when the tide goes out we get to see who is naked.” That is generally understood to mean that in a down cycle you get to see who is well capitalized and who was operating on credit. We’re seeing something similar in the political sphere. 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.