Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Eunomia Against Jacobin Capitalism

David Larison speaks against a marketplace of competing morals:

Many libertarians do subscribe to this "marketplace of morals," which will continue to make them unwitting accomplices with increased government regulation as they tend to dismiss forms of social control and traditional authority as being as equally undesirable as government regulation. But so long as man needs some constraints to check his willfulness and passions, the less people rely on non-governmental mechanisms of social control the more they consign themselves and their posterity to the caretaking of the state. I think this is the very concern that Mr. Suderman expresses when he worries about introducing "unfair competition with society's moral institutions" by involving the government.

What troubles the crunchies, as it troubles me, about an undue regard for the virtues of "the free market" is that this sort of market, when not restrained or regulated either by its participants or, in the last resort, by the state, breaks down the very forms of social control and traditional authority needed to keep the state from becoming involved. (In so doing, it is also consuming the very corrective forces that keep the entire system from succumbing to massive corruption--think of this social control as a kind of balm for the market's self-inflicted wounds that keeps them from becoming horribly infected and gangrenous.) Unfortunately, this very dissolution of traditional social bonds is something that far, far too many anti-crunchy and libertarian proponents of the market make out to be a positive good and a "liberation" from the outmoded, patriarchal and repressive norms of bygone days. Larry Kudlow, call your office.

In other words, the more one wishes to keep the state out of the business of regulating morals the more one should be keen on the crunchy idea of self-restraint, rejection of consumerism and all the tawdry and vulgar products that the allegedly "moral marketplace" spews forth. The marketplace is only as moral as its participants, and it is only as consonant with virtue as the attitudes of its participants, so if a large number of those participants embrace a mentality of unrestricted consumption and acquisition (which has frequently been married to a debased aesthetic sense of the mass man and a crude ethic of self-gratification) the market will go from being a merely disruptive force in social life to a positively harmful engine of cultural rot. This, I submit, is not the kind of market Mr. Suderman wants to defend. But if he wants to insist that the crunchies are, in some measure, hostile to his idea of the market, he will find himself stuck with the sort of market that drives cultural rot.

No comments: