On the left, it has been agreed that capitalism does not work: It is corrupt. It is evil. It is racist. It is broken. In the Democratic Party, an avowed socialist came very close to winning the presidential nomination – twice.
But this great war our politicians are waging over capitalism and socialism is a dishonest fight. The combined ruling class of the Left and Right fell asleep at the wheel of our market economy. Now, the very same people are drafting us into a war over whether we should stick with their laissez-faire distortions or tear the whole thing down.
The Cultural Consequences
For all their criticisms of capitalism, the Left forgets that they played a sizable role in accelerating the very problems they blame on the system. Over the past few decades, the Left has orchestrated a hedonistic and relativistic revolution, the speed and scope of which is truly astonishing. A libertine revolution which has most of all benefited the pockets of degenerate entertainers and cronies.
In a few decades, the Left has completely reinvented the West. The way we think about family, sex, God, and ourselves has never been more dilapidated. It is hard to find another time in the history of mankind when a civilization voluntarily rewrote its own values so quickly and thoroughly, save the end of Rome. The effect has been a perverted reversion of civil society.
Many who were instrumental in this so-called “Sexual Revolution” declare a motivation of freedom from the shackles of tradition, a rediscovery of our natural state as sexual creatures. But this Revolution did not discover sex, they didn’t even discover promiscuity. Americans were always promiscuous, with times of particular profligacy like the Roaring Twenties and even the early 1800s. What this revolution championed was the cause of free sex, or as Mary Eberstadt put it, the end of the “shotgun wedding.” After all, how can a man be truly considered free if he can’t deflower a woman, father a child, and keep rollin’ like a rolling stone?
Marriage and parenthood went from an obligation to a matter of personal preference. Family, the foundation of civilization, became just another lifestyle choice. They took the network of responsibilities and duties of society as tyranny, and they erased them.
The Revolution sought to liberate mankind from all oppression, whether it be the iron-fisted oppression of governments or the soft oppression of societal mores. They focused primarily on the latter; that soul crushing oppression that comes in the form of your father asking when you’ll get a job or your mother asking when you’ll get married. Culturally this is best represented in of all things, “The Man” by Taylor Swift. The themes of “No one should be able to tell you what to do!” permeate postmodernity. The government, the law, society, even parents have no real agency. Play by your own rules. Do what makes you feel right.
In reality, this revolution was about liberalism. It was about freeing mankind from any and all limits to individual liberty. It is an old ideology, and throughout American history, liberals and conservatives have been able to coexist for common causes; whether that be the American Revolution, or opposing the Soviet Union. Yet, as the threat of communism loomed, unbridled liberalism was unleashed on the American people, and it did exactly what it said it would.
The Economic Consequences
There is perhaps nothing in psychology so thoroughly proven as the negative effects of fatherlessness. Children living with a mother and father are healthier mentally and physically. They are more confident, and do better in school – crime, poverty, obesity, mental illness, and a whole host of social ills can be traced directly to fatherlessness. Knowing this, in 1965 Senator Patrick Moynihan wrote with shock and horror that almost 25% of black children were born out of wedlock, and predicted the suffering that would come as a result. Today, an astounding 33% of children of all races in America are born without a father. A capitalist economy where nearly half the population is fatherless is bound to fail.
But it is not just fatherlessness. Even children with both parents are suffering from this “Brand New World”. The Sexual Revolution denigrated motherhood, convincing millions of women that making money was noble – while childrearing was a useless and slavish existence. And so, millions of American mothers went off to work, leaving their young children in day care institutions. Or even more common, they chose to have no children at all.
Eberstadt and others have found that small children left without their mothers, do not develop as well as those with mothers, and thus face a disadvantage. But even more than that, the rush of women into the workplace created what is known as a “two-income trap.” As mothers joined their husbands in the workforce and brought home a second income, corporations realized they could now charge more money for basic family needs. Thus, the costs of real estate, education, health insurance, and other basic living expenses skyrocketed. As prices went up, traditional single-income households have not been able to sustain themselves. This economic force has essentially removed the option of being a stay-at-home mom for the entire middle class. Still, mothers being forced to work have been expected to pay for day care, meaning that having a family in America has became an insufferable experience.
Liberalism set out to free women, but it left mothers less free to actually be mothers. This too is no sexist, misogynistic, conspiracy theory. The two-income trap previously mentioned was pointed out by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren in a book of the same name. Warren notes in her book that traditional stay-at-home moms used to be “the most important part of the safety net,” as the mother could step in and earn an income if the primary breadwinner was suddenly unable to do so. But the Liberal Revolution punched a giant hole in that net.
Indeed, for most of history, the family has been the greatest of safety nets. When one fell on hard times, they turned to a brother, a father, a cousin, or a wife. Yet, due to economic and cultural pressures, more couples have chosen to have just one child. As families have shrunk, America has became atomized into a nation of lonely strangers. A civil society cannot function like this.
To alleviate the pain of this change, a welfare state paved with the best of intentions was established. Instead, it further casted the institutions of family and community towards the sidelines. In the name of fighting poverty, the government subsidized single motherhood and unemployment among our most vulnerable citizens.
Through manipulation of the Supreme Court, the Left overturned anti-pornography and indecency laws; prayer and religion banned from public schools in sweeping edicts, while pushing sex education into the curriculum. To further protect their new lifestyle, they removed all barriers to birth control and had abortion declared a right.
The “crises of meaning” that we are suffering today stems from this. Liberalism reinterpreted our ancient notion of liberty; changing the freedom to meet our obligations without interference, into freedom from obligations. We went from the liberty to fulfill our duties to the liberty of no duty. This perhaps is the greatest crime of liberalism. After all, to have duty is to have true purpose. The lack thereof has caused the nihilism spawning loneliness, depression, crime, and suicide. But it is also a vacuum. We need purpose, and without traditional virtue, we will look for it anywhere. In the place of religion and family, the void has been filled with political fanaticism and conspiracy theories. Critical Race Theory on the Left, and QAnon on the Right, satisfy the same emptiness. This religionization of politics is a very dangerous thing. For only religion should be followed religiously.
Purposelessness’ twin brother “loneliness” was already a pandemic. But when COVID hit, it became a full blown crisis. As James Lynch touched upon in an earlier piece on this site, millions of Americans were left locked at home for months with nothing but Netflix and food. These millions are that many more victims of our atomized society. A real capitalist economy will not work in this environment, and it shows. Yet the Left blames capitalism for the environment they helped create that makes it impossible.
Where was the Right?
As the Left was dismantling the American way of life, the Right became oddly obsessed with economic dynamism. After making token efforts at protecting Western Civilization, a silent agreement seemed to emerge: The Left would be free to turn the country upside down, while the Right would focus on tax rates and government budget issues. In the face of the revolution, the Right became convinced that economic growth was the real priority, and told us that raising Gross Domestic Product would be all we need to make everything less gross!
And so, in the name of GDP, the Right joined the attack on the traditional American way of life. They promoted a form of “creative destruction” that would force Americans living in good communities, with decent union jobs, to change their lifestyle. They helped ship manufacturing jobs to China and Mexico, while lecturing the people they hurt on why it was macroeconomically efficient. When asked why they were doing nothing to save the American way of life, figureheads on the Right just talked about “limited government” and how the Constitution forbade them from taking decisive action.
Amazingly, conservatives who proclaimed their faith in the Bible and religion embraced greed as a virtue. Yet, as we all are intuitively aware, nothing can be further from the values of the Bible. Even more recently, the Right gave up on even the aesthetic of pretending to care about social issues. As Professor Patrick Deneen explains in Why Liberalism Failed, the Left and Right wings of American politics embraced the vision of a society built around serving the individual above all else. The only difference – whether the individual is best served by a centralized government or unfettered corporatism, with both having the same depersonalizing and atomizing effect on society. Outsized, centralized power remained the core tenant of both.
What the Right and Left fail to understand, is that capitalism only works in a conservative society. We cannot create a system where all men provide for themselves with no government interference without the culture to raise healthy, strong families with an ability to nurture the next generation, and catch them when they fall. With conservative values being squeezed in a pincer between the Right and Left, it is no wonder that even the oft-worshipped GDP growth has slowed.
Every decent American is well aware of the problems with socialism. But we need to consider the cruelty and horror of a fully matured liberal capitalism. Imagine an atheistic society of lonely, unmarried individuals; no purpose in life, minds clouded by pornography and drugs, with suicide in the back of everyone’s mind. It would be truly cruel for the government of such a society to leave their people to fend for themselves in the name of the “free market.” Yet that appears to be increasingly what the Republican party stands for.
The economy is here to serve us, not the other way around. In the past, a small and limited government may have been the best way to support a healthy, conservative lifestyle. Now, that is clearly not the case. Today, conservatives must make the adjustment and do whatever is necessary to conserve and revitalize the traditional American lifestyle – even if it means using the state. We must reform welfare from a system that makes civil institutions unnecessary, to a system that vigorously supports those institutions. We must restore the strength of our communities by creating businesses and manufacturing jobs, and use a robust industrial policy to do so. We must support families and halt the destruction of the prevalent two-income trap. Finally, being pro-life should mean more than just preventing abortion, we should be incentivizing more children as well.
This is the fight between the Old and New Right. While the Old clings to market absolutism, a New Right has arisen that is pushing back. The New Right judges the wellbeing of a nation not by GDP, but by the strength of her families and her institutions, and is ready to use the government to protect them. If we do not address this, socialism will be the least of our problems.