June 28, 2019


A roadmap for popular conservatism (Conor Walsh, 6/28/19, CapX)

Among the many interesting discussions at this year's Centre for Policy Studies Margaret Thatcher conference on Britain and America was a panel on 'The Anglo-Saxon Model: In Need of Repair?', chaired by Anne Applebaum and featuring Megan McArdle, Alastair Heath and Ryan Streeter. The conversation went to the heart of the current economic and political settlement on both sides of the pond.

Heath, editor of the Sunday Telegraph, argued that those of us who support what we might broadly consider democratic capitalism have been failing to make the case for free markets recently, or have allowed the brand to become unfairly tarnished.

It's true that few know about the extraordinary gains that the global market economy has brought to the emerging world. But at home, the free-market has been tarnished by the financial crisis. Some argue this is unfair for a simple reason: the banking system is about as far away from a free-market as it's possible to get. It requires government licenses to enter, relies on government deposit insurance to survive, and at its heart sits a central planning authority which sets its fundamental price: the interest rate. Its profits are private and its losses public.

The peculiarity of conservatism's crisis (or neoliberalism's if you prefer) is that it comes at a time when it has decisively proven its worth. Consider that George W. Bush--the avatar of modern conservatism--faced two world-historical crises as president: the confrontation with Islamicism and the Credit Crunch.  He and the UR defeated the Taliban, al Qaeda and ISIS at a de minimus cost of around 7,000 American military deaths and one-third of one year of GDP. 9-11 was followed by no significant Salafi/Wahhabi attack on US soil.  Meanwhile, the financial explosion, far from causing the expected Depression, was dealt with so effectively that the economy grew the following year and embarked on the longest period of growth in our history.  This all came about during a period when domestic crime was falling precipitously and remains stubbornly quiescent. American faith in our institutions (government and business) is at a nadir at precisely the point when those institutions are at their zenith.  The irony is that the accomplishments were so easily engineered that the accomplishments are not credited.  Instead, we are left with the hilarious spectacle of our affluent and peaceful fellow citizens fretting about inequality, at a time when the greatest threat to the least advantaged is obesity, and about immigrants stealing our jobs, at a time when no native will accept the record number of jobs we can't fill. Obviously, the Left and the Right can hardly trumpet the effectiveness of the very institutions they wish to destroy, but some sensible centrist needs to remind us of how easy we have it.

Posted by at June 28, 2019 12:22 PM