03 May 2013

A conservative repudiates austerity

To be specific, it's The American Conservative magazine, and to be more specific, it's presumably the magazine's editor Daniel McCarthy. Readers of this blog know by now not to expect orthodox Republicanism from the contrarian journal; the Conservative defines conservatism as a rejection of ideology, not as an ideology itself. Austerity, or some euphemistic packaging of the concept, may be Republican orthodoxy now, but the May/June issue of the Conservative notes, in its lead editorial, that "the short-term evidence" has not borne out warnings from Republican economists against the deficit spending of the recent stimulus. Noting errors of scholarship in some predictions of severe inflation and further economic stagnation, the editorial observes that "Inflation has been modest" and that "The weight of circumstances no longer favors arguments for austerity."

The magazine remains recognizably "conservative" within an American context when it reminds readers that "there are reasons beyond those of the 'austerians' for looking askance at the burgeoning of the welfare state in this time of prolonged misery." McCarthy still worries about a "socially atomizing effect that even helpful government programs can have." What he means, apparently, is that the more individuals must depend upon the state rather than upon families or "civil society," the weaker civil society becomes, with potential consequences ranging from greater statism to cultural anomie. However, looking askance at the welfare state doesn't mean rejecting the idea at all times or under all circumstances. McCarthy understands something many that self-styled conservatives don't or won't acknowledge. While those people rail against "dependency," McCarthy writes that "the greater immediate danger is not dependency." That's because "millions of Americans are genuinely in need amid a hollowed-out working-class economy." And that's why he refers to "helpful" programs. He can see that such programs can be helpful, at least in the short term, whatever long-term consequences he fears, while too many "conservatives" talk and write as if those programs have no benefits whatsoever. Republicans may complain about dependence on government for even the short term, but McCarthy reminds them that "there are few, if any, policies in place to counteract the crowding out of the private realm by public assistance." He sees that as the fault of conservatives who give more attention to "overarching economic theories." Seen from another perspective, the problem seems to be those conservatives more concerned about minimizing both their financial obligations to the nation and the size of government than about the actual welfare (however you define it) of the people. McCarthy may be one of the rare American conservatives who recognizes, all ideological disputation aside, that those people still have to live. Isn't that what conservatism should be all about?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When there is no one else to rely upon, then what choice do people have left? We have already seen that big business has no sense of national or moral obligation to create jobs and if you want to eliminate the welfare state you have to ensure available jobs for every single person who is expected to provide for themselves and/or families. Poor people CANNOT create their own business as one needs capital to begin with and the poor are severely limited in that situation.

The fact is, within a certain very narrow set of parameters, republicanism is workable - just like anarchy or pure democracy. So until the politicians are ready to take a stand FOR THE PEOPLE and force big business to become socially responsible, rather than social parasites, then there is no option but a welfare state.

Insofar as austerity goes, the repugnicans better shut their damned mouths until they are ready to start preaching that doctrine to their campaign financiers.