There is a distinction to be made between privileged couch potatoes who loathe free enterprise – e.g., Bernie Sanders’ fans – and honest workers with legitimate grievances, for whom a solution is more important than the exact source of the problem.
The latter group comprises the vast majority of grassroots-level Trump supporters. With establishment conservatives conflating the rise of Trump with the death of free market principles and even the demise of the Constitution, an explanation for the new direction of the right wing in America is in order.
Contrary to the cries of “resurgent historical populism!” from the likes of Glenn Beck, we do not see a widespread rejection of capitalism in favor of government handouts. What we see is an impassioned reaction, perhaps an overreaction, to the ruling assumptions of identity politics and American guilt that infect the highest levels of D.C., academia, and even corporate board rooms.
Let’s cast aside our preexisting mental paradigms for a moment, and examine some of the perceptions that have led to reticence on the issue of economic liberty.
1) The Convergence of Corporate Alienation and Social Justice Culture.
Having worked in some unnaturally bland, culturally sterilized environments ruled over by passive aggressive bosses, I’ve long considered the concept of worker alienation to be one of the few valid Marxist critiques of capitalism. (Ultimately, it’s not an argument for government-managed offices, but for forging your own path.)
Today, corporate alienation is less likely to spring from unlikeable employers than it is from social justice mythology. This religion, ironically informed by Marxism, is imposed in a top-down manner on unwitting workers by clueless managers who give free reign to virtue-signaling progressives in HR.
Could it be that large swaths of people associate large corporations, and possibly their own current lack of employment, with Very Important Diversity Initiatives and Cultural Sensitivity Programs? Could it be that the marginalized see no obligation to defend the interests of corporations in the name of economic liberty? Enforced ideological conformity blurs the distinction between corporate and civil life, strengthening the perception of a “system” that must be broken.
Moreover, the most vibrantly high-tech companies on earth are also the most progressive, with Twitter punishing conservative users and Facebook manipulating trending topics to omit conservative stories. When huge corporations are waging social justice war in the shadows of their own operations, economic liberty is not the most pertinent talking point.
2) “Globalism” as the Culprit for Lack of Employment.
The rise of nationalism is a bitter reaction to Obama’s habitual sacrifice of American interests to those of our enemies. A government that gives billions of dollars to Iran to invest in terrorism does not engender trust. For some, it is not a stretch to imagine that the elites might have engineered economic stagnation just as deliberately.
We do not hear that American corporations are hampered by endless regulations and high tax rates; many suspect that multinational corporations (run by “globalists”) care little for blue collar Americans, and that there may well be an organized conspiracy to give American jobs to immigrants and foreign workers.
Before we pounce, let’s put this narrative into perspective. If taxes and regulations are restored to proper levels, and the economy booms for the next ten years, do you really think we’ll still hear rants about trade agreements and globalist conspiracies? These are situational and ephemeral sentiments, not tenets of a radical new ideology. As such, they are voiced by people who find our current economic situation unacceptable and our government untrustworthy. Unlike our real adversaries on the left, these people do not seek to overthrow America’s long tradition of free enterprise.
3) Confusion Caused By Economic Interventions.
In the aftermath of the Wall Street bailouts and investment-distorting Fed policies, it’s no wonder that some on the right want to tear down the system and, in a sense, start our economy from scratch.
As Hayek noted, interventions create malaise that lead to the perceived need for more interventions. To what extent might the cumulative effect of Obama’s tens of thousands of new regulations (including Obamacare) and higher taxes have led to calls for protectionism? We may never know the answer to this question.
Along with unintended consequences, moral hazard is another great risk of government intervention. If bankers and auto makers can get bailouts, why can’t blue collar workers get tariffs? Don’t all of these fall into the category of helping America – and aren’t all of these systemic problems?
As with #2, this kind of confusion will disappear once the layers of red tape are repealed and our resilient economic engine restarts. We can maximize prospects for this scenario by voting Trump into office and letting Reagan’s economic team get back to work.
4) Distrust of the “Experts.”
This election cycle is a tough time for the so-called experts. Rightly so!
There are the financial wizards who should have warned us about impending economic doom a decade ago; politicians like Hillary, who collect insane fees for giving vacuous speeches to elitist bankers; journalists who create hoaxes to push the social justice agenda forward at all costs; political pundits who have proven themselves incapable of accounting for the rise of Trump.
On the right, the most intense ridicule is reserved for those conservative politicians who, rather than standing up for American values and the people they represent, respond to [whatever SJW buzzword is hurled at them] by cowering and supplicating. These people are useless in the face of the highly organized, often violent, Soros-funded progressive movement – that facilitator of chaos bent on destroying the cultural precursors of stable capitalism.
5) The Cathedral Metaphor.
To paraphrase from a bit of discussion between Milo Yiannopoulos and Jack Donovan, perhaps the clearest way to summarize the difference between the emerging right, establishment conservatism, and progressivism is to use the example of a great cathedral, whose land lease is about to expire.
I’ll speculate that the establishment conservative would be open to selling the property to a firm in Dubai, which plans to erect a giant and profitable shopping center. The progressive would like the government to raze the property and build a mosque, for the sake of diversity. The member of the emerging right – of the pro-Trump variety – would most likely wish to preserve the cathedral as a timeless symbol of Western culture, which the left deems evil and which the (globalist) establishment right seems content with selling out for the sake of profit.
Replace our hypothetical cathedral with Western values, the English language, a distinctly American populace, and American industries – and you will begin to perceive the sentiment, if not the logic, that is propelling Trump to the forefront of politics. It is not, first and foremost, a rejection of free market principles. It is a well-meaning instinct, at times led astray by simplistic reasoning, to protect and preserve the values that America once strongly stood for.
I do not suggest that conservatives should permanently abandon free market principles in favor of emotional nativism. As the title of this article suggests, I consider the move away from economic liberty to be a transient phenomenon that is likely to last only as long as progressives remain in charge and our economy remains in the gutter.
Perhaps, instead of giving the benefit of the doubt to the other side, Republicans of the NeverTrump variety would do well to try to understand their own side first.
If conservatives could attack the left with the same intensity that they attack each other, none of this would be happening.
— Libertennial (@Libertennial) May 4, 2016