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  Road to the Middle Class
Thursday November 27, 2014 
by Christopher Chantrill Follow chrischantrill on Twitter

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Humanity's Big Problem: Freebooters and Freeloaders

Nothing is more corrosive to a group’s cohesion than free riders.1
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

Humans are social animals; we live in groups, and we usually cooperate with our fellows, working and playing for the benefit of others as we receive the product of the labor of others.  Indeed, Matt Ridley argues that trade and specialization is the essence of the human story and has been ever since humans began to barter and trade 200,000 years ago.  Specialists concentrate on their specialty and get better at it, and so specialists create and exchange with other specialists a steadily increasing product of the human collective mind.  

But we are not just cooperative bartering happy campers. Sharing 98% of our genes with chimpanzees we also share their their territoriality, the necessity of patrolling the borders and killing border violators, and their hierarchy, with the dominant male on top and the women on the bottom: we see others take advantage of us, grabbing more than their fair share, and we enviously hate them and long to teach them a lesson in sharing by plundering them of their ill-gotten gains.  But when envious people grab stuff from people in our own social group we call them freeloaders, or worse.  When foreigners take stuff from people in our community we may call them freebooters, invaders or pirates.  Thus every human community organizes itself not just for social cooperation but for common defense against foreign freebooters – not excluding the need for punitive expeditions — and for the policing and the punishment of local freeloaders.  We call that organization: government. But there is a problem.  The power given to those chosen to defend the community from enemies foreign and domestic can just as easily be used against the community.  The defenders against freebooting and freeloading are in the best position to freeload off the very community they are sworn to defend.  Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will protect us from the protectors?  

The defense against freeloaders and freebooters may seem easy, but it is not, for people in any large social group usually disagree vigorously about the true identity of freebooters and freeloaders, the existential threat to peaceful human cooperation and exchange.  Some people say it is politicians and bureaucrats, others the rich and the corporations.  Some people are consumed by suspicion about Jews and middlemen; others want to stamp out Communists and Islamists.  Humans have endlessly contested the true character of cooperative action and the border between the just reward and cruel exploitation.

We have seen that governments, for all the good press they give themselves, are dressed-up freebooters.  Governments may indeed defend their people against enemies foreign and domestic; they may coin money, enforce the laws, and support commerce.  They may provide many public services.  But at bottom, a government is still an armed minority that occupies a territory and maintains itself by force.  It maintains itself in power by rewarding its supporters and intimidating its opponents.  We preen ourselves that our modern western governments are better than the proud Achaeans of the Iliad for whom the meaning of life was the plunder of cities and the rape of women, better than Genghis Khan for whom the meaning of life was his enemies at his feet and the lamentation of their women, better than the Conquistadors and their North American cousins, better than the British Raj, better than fascists, Bolsheviks, and Maoists, but our governments still live from day to day by force.  Government is force, and politics is division, civil war by other means.  Set free of restraint, political leaders conquer and plunder, and they gain office by promising a share of the spoils to their supporters.  

Even a millennium ago in Europe the conquest and plunder concept was pretty frank.  Here is how it worked in the Ostpolitik of the Frankish king Charlemagne, headquartered in the 8th century at Trier on the borders between what we now call France and Germany.

There was nothing new about the Frankish drive to the east.  From his base in northern Gaul Clovis had attacked his eastern neighbours the Ripaurian Franks round Cologne, the Thuringians, and Alamans beyond the Rhine.  His example had been vigorously followed by his successors, Merovingian and early Pippinid alike. It was the obvious direction for Frankish kings to turn when the annual campaigning season came round: let us recall that the continuance of their rule depended upon regular, successful, predatory warfare.2

That this freebooting empire also justified its expansion eastward into Saxony by invoking the will of God that it should Christianize the pagans merely reminds us politics and religion go together like ham and eggs.  The freebooting Frankish kings rewarded their freeloading supporters and declared it all the will of God just as modern campaigning politicians promise “free stuff” to the modern campaign contributor and the modern middle-class voter and justify it all on the altar of fairness.  Unrestrained, the tribal chieftain and the modern politician will act as freebooters and their supporters will slip comfortably into life as freeloaders, for “justice being taken away, then, what are kingdoms but great robberies?”

If unrestrained governments are bad, unrestrained capitalists are not much better.  We have seen how Venetian merchants enslaved Muslims to work the slave plantations on Cyprus to produce sugar for Europe and how the slave plantation business model expanded westward to the Atlantic Ocean, the West Indies and the Americas, culminating in the cotton slave plantations of the Deep South in the United States.  Although global commerce requires trust between businessmen, it does not prevent businessmen in pursuit of profit from conspiring to yoke some “other” to the machete or the hoe.  It is true that the slave masters found that more profit could be made by sparing the lash and rewarding their slave-workers for work well done.  But it was best not to take things too far: few masters were willing to free their slaves — they were too valuable for that.  And when the migration from the farm to the city began, there were many employers willing to exploit the migrants, particularly their biddable daughters, by working them in textile factories at subsistence wages.  It seems that when freebooting politicians get to write the rules for business, or freebooting businessmen get to write the rules of politics, then the people suffer.

But now, of course, these problems are all behind us.

The great conceit of our modern era is the narrative of our glorious revolt against the feudal oppressions of the agricultural era.  No longer would people submit to the yoke of the landed power, we declared. Reason and science were to be the foundations of faith instead of tradition and superstition; freedom and liberation was our cry, and human rights our talisman against arbitrary power.  No longer would the barons of the crags or landowners of any kind lord it over the rest of us.  A new era was beginning.

It is easy to run the gamut of the feudal era’s oppressions.  Never mind the slavery, ubiquitous wherever armies plundered.  There was serfdom, to tie people to the land.  There was indentured servitude, to tie people to their jobs.  There were rigid guild and occupational restrictions, to keep the rural poor out of the city.  There was universal discrimination against the “other” whether religious, linguistic, or racial.  Nor did the servile peasants live in any kind of collective paradise in their villages.  For all that peasants lived and worked for their family, in practice they were subordinated to a household patriarch.  Children could hardly afford to rebel, and “once they leave the home they are without occupation and support.”  In almost all peasant societies the “status and rights [of women] are low.”3  And the landed warrior class of nobles ruled over all.  

The landed warriors ruled the world for a good reason, as their rule was the answer to the central problem of the agricultural age.  Food-producing peasants must store food enough to last from one harvest to the next.  During that period they are vulnerable to pirates and plunderers; they need protection, for without armed protection farmers get robbed.  To understand this truth you must grasp the situation of lands that lack the means to defend themselves from predation.  In the year 1000 in England, a millennium ago, Viking ships would sail up the rivers of England every fall.  Unopposed by a weak state ruled by King Ethelred, they would grab booty, kill the men, and sell the women and children into slavery at the slave market in Dublin where “fit young men and nubile young women commanded the highest prices.”4 All around the Mediterranean, a few centuries ago, people avoided living too near the coast, in case they should be captured by the Barbary pirates of North Africa. It was the same thing on the shores of the Black Sea, where the merchants of Venice and Genoa collected and transported slaves for sale to the Muslim Middle East as slave-soldiers and concubines. Along the coast of West Africa, three centuries ago, “pirates” from New England and Liverpool bought slaves from the warring tribes of West Africa, and then transported and worked them to death in the sugar plantations of the West Indies.  Farmers needed a strong government with effective armed forces to stop this sort of thing, and they usually got it.  Unfortunately there was a downside to this protection.  The warrior class wanted a high price for their protection — nice little farm you got here; pity if something should happen to it — and they usually got it.

The warrior class was smart.  It did not just rule by virtue of its indispensability, or even its force, but also by co-opting the class of religious specialists, initially in the temple cults of the Middle East and latterly in the state churches of medieval and early modern Europe.  These religious seers conveniently possessed the vision to divine the will of the gods with regard to human governance.  They discovered that the gods approved of a world run by warrior landlords: why, to the gods kingliness was next to godliness.  The heavens seemed to demand the rule of the landowners.

Then the world changed, and the protection rackets of the feudal era were consigned to the ash heap of history.  

The difference between now and then is not so much in the virtue of the ruling class but in the change in the correlation of forces.  Back in the agricultural age, wealth meant wealth in land; today wealth is measured in “intangible capital,” the collective mental skills of a workforce, its ability to create more wealth.  Back then the world was ruled by men that presided over food-producing patrimonial estates; today the world is ruled by men that tax the wealth production of businessmen and their workers.  Back then the only thing that mattered was the opinion and the pride of the great landed magnates; today what matters is what the millions of productive workers will want or can be persuaded to want.  Political leadership back then involved the manipulation of the pride of a Harry Monmouth or a Harry Hotspur; political leadership today involves the manipulation of public opinion and the pride of the common man and woman.  In the Magna Charta of 1215 the issue was the rights and liberties of the barons.  In the People’s Charter of 1838 the issue was the rights and liberties of working men.

While the landed warrior class ruled it lived large.  It return for its protection it extracted from its peasantry a rent that moderns declare to be unjust.  Exercising temporal and spiritual power through a condominium between church and state the ruling class defined both earthly justice and divine justice.  When that the poor had cried, Caesar may have wept, but he didn’t raise the poor out of poverty. Not at all.  The landed warrior class made sure to keep the poor dispersed on the land, tied to a magnate’s estate or forced into a landless vagabond existence.  We get to experience this culture most nearly in its degenerate phase just before abolition, in the novels of Jane Austen.  Land was wealth, measured in incomes of thousands per year, and the great climax of every generation was the tournament of acres in which the family backed its heir to score an advantageous marriage in the national land lottery.

Then the world changed.  Freebooting political leaders, beginning with Napoleon, replaced the freebooting barons of the land.  The peasants, once dispersed in the countryside, migrated to villages to dig the mines and to the city to operate the factories where they achieved strategic concentration, and as they achieved this concentration political leaders began to bid for their support.  The merchants, once safely corralled in medieval cities, broke out across the world into a flood tide of creative destruction, utterly transforming economic relations and conjuring up unimaginable wealth as they exploited first the textile revolution, then the steam revolution, the internal combustion revolution, the electrical revolution, the chemical revolution, the electronic revolution, the information revolution.

The revolution in demographics and the revolution in economics changed the terms of trade for freebooters and freeloaders.  Instead of the old game played by the landed warriors — the frank plunder of the vulnerable peasant punctuated by vicious dynastic wars — the new game became the frank plunder of the wealth created by the businessmen and the workers in the new industrial economy.  Back in the old days the peasant was truly helpless.  Without military defense his store of grain was a permanent temptation for freebooters.  But the new economy was different:  Masters and workers were doubly helpless.  They required not just defense for themselves against domestic robbers and for their argosies against high-seas pirates; they needed a deep and constantly renewed infrastructure, from credit to transportation, in order to produce and deliver the goods.  

In essence nothing had changed.  Peaceable producers still needed protection.  But who would step up to do the protection, if the old landed warriors need not apply?  And would the protectors be worthy, or would they turn out once again to be freebooters assisted by willing freeloaders, just like the bad old days of the feudal era?   That was the question that the 19th century was destined to answer.  Would the new ruling class be the leaders of the economic revolution, the entrepreneurs, inventors and investors?  If not, then who?

You would think that the entrepreneurs and factory owners of the industrial age would be the obvious candidates for election as industrial age hegemons.  As lords of the new industrial economy you would expect the barons of the manufacturies to leverage their economic power into political power and extend their lordship from economic to political hegemony, with a modest retainer handed out to the grateful workers as an afterthought.  

But a young scion of a wealthy family from Trier in the Prussian Rhineland thought up a cunning way to stop this rising hegemon in his tracks.  He proposed to divide the masters and the workers and rule them both.  In his view the new industrial economy was not a benison to the worker: far from it.  The bourgeoisie was to the factory worker as the noble was to the peasant, he argued, and the new industrial age was shaping up as an age of exploitation even worse than the feudal age.  He set out to persuade the workers that they were grievously exploited by their vaunting employers, veritable freebooters, and deserved to receive the full value of their labor.  Stripped of their ill-gotten gains, the educated class would hand the proceeds, less a suitable handling fee, to the workers as a municent gift from a caring state to its most worthy citizens.  If properly handled and persuaded, the workers ought to be grateful forever for this coup de main.

The new educated elite founded its dynasty at a moment of extraordinary opportunity for political transformation and consolidation.  First of all, the state had been enormously strengthened in the generation-long Napoleonic wars.  Politicians and their functionaries had learned how to mobilize the wealth of nations for all-out war using the credit system invented by the Dutch Republic during its liberation struggle against Spain.  Meanwhile the material economy itself had been transformed by the textile revolution, and would shortly be transformed again by ocean steamships and by railways.  The people were different too.  Ordinary people had migrated from the starving countryside to toil in the cities, and the new intellectual generation born between 1810 and 1820 — Dickens, Verdi, Wagner, Marx, Spencer, Eliot — nursed on reason and weaned on Romanticism, burst everything asunder as soon as they reached adulthood in the 1840s.  For centuries the old feudal elite had kept the vast majority of the population quietly starving out on the land.  Now the commercial and industrial revolutions brought the peasant of the agricultural age into strategic concentration in the new industrial cities as the “working class” in the full Marxian sense of a large group of people experiencing a “subjective sense of solidarity,” a common ideology, and a sense of hostile opposition to the bosses of the mines and factories.5  The sons of the people who had lived in rural idiocy as the dupes of the landed warrior class found themselves mobilized in holy war against their new bosses in the towns.

But does the rule of the educated, the warrior rhetoricians, work?  Is its apology true, that a ruling class of educated elitists is needed to manage the interests of the workers against their exploiting employers?  Does the educated class really mediate the expressed needs of the workers, or does it just divine them in ways that enhance its own power, as the First Estate once divined the will of God for a heaven-sent king?  For if the argument for exploitation fails, or the educated elite fails to govern in the best interests of the people, but merely in accordance with its own ideas of what the people ought to want, then they are freebooters no better than the landed warriors of the feudal age.  If that is so, then what should we do about it?

In many ways, the story of the last two hundred years has been a dialog about the nature of freebooting in the modern era.  Is the major threat from government, whether experienced as a colonial power, an executive committee of the bourgeoisie, a vanguard of the proletariat, or as an expert educated elite?  Or is the major threat from business, whether experienced as exploiters, as robber barons, as monopoly capital, as global multinationals, as corporate greed, or merely “the rich?”  The great political movements that emerged in the 19th century were each unique responses to a perceived threat from some conspiracy of buccaneering freebooters.

Karl Marx formulated his politics and his economics on a theory of exploitation that seemed to describe the relations between landowner and peasant pretty accurately, and that is what his readers knew, for was not the Enlightenment nothing if not an attempt to shine the light of reason upon the exploitations of the past?  Marx took his feudal exploitation theory and pressed it upon the brow of capital.  Capitalists were to workers as landowners were to peasants, and they would immiserate workers just as landowners had immiserated peasants since the dawn of the agricultural age.  Marx’s solution to this new injustice was a political revolution to replace the executive committee of the bourgeoisie with a vanguard of the proletariat, an elite of educated revolutionaries, and liberate to the workers the full value of the labor power that the capitalists had skimmed off.  This idea was tested to destruction, within a century, in horrifying death camps, miserable poverty, and unequaled political despotism.  When the Marxian model was implemented upon the peoples of Russia and China the vanguard of the proletariat transformed itself into a freebooting elite of remarkable rapacity, and the people became a servile class of freeloaders, more oppressed than any landless peasant.  The experience was memorialized in the Russian joke that “so long as the bosses pretend to pay us, we will pretend to work.”

Most people that seize political power or seek redress of their grievances shrink from a total upset of social relations; they modestly seek only an adjustment in their favor.  So the Marxian prophecy of revolution was modified by more timid minds into the gradualist programs of the British Fabian Society and the American Progressives.  These scions, as well-born as Marx — Beatrice Webb was the daughter of a businessman, Herbert Croly the son of New York journalists — understood the threat that industrial revolution represented to people like them and instinctively feared the power of railroad barons, steel magnates, and oil monopolists.  Like Marx they did not articulate their fears as threats to themselves but projected them instead on the workers that toiled for the lords of commerce.  They were perturbed by the chaotic nature of modern commerce, its booms and busts, its metastatic growth across the land, and they imagined themselves as rational ordering agents, social engineers, confining a raging flood into safe channels.  Thus the Fabian Society of intellectuals advanced its agenda in the late 19th century in England with pamphlets, books of essays, and “rational factual socialist argument” rather than “emotional rhetoric and street brawls.”  The American Progressives likewise experienced themselves as voices of reason arguing for social harmony against a cacophony of political and industrial corruption.

All these movements proposed a solution to the rise of industrial power with a single solution: supremacy of political power over economic power.  They experienced unbridled economic power as the great evil, and discounted any danger from unbridled political power.  They all proposed to solve the crisis of the industrial revolution with an over-under political coalition.  The educated and enlightened would solicit the support of the suffering masses and use the resulting cultural and political power to extract tribute from the buccaneering industrial pirates.  Only political power could construct a system of social protection to provide for relief from unemployment, sickness, and superannuation.  Only politics could restore a sense of community to a society that seemed to have lost its spirit of community — killed, it seemed, by unbridled individualism, mechanical monsters and the satanic men that manipulated their controls.

But really, how bad could things have been, even in the troubled decades in the middle of the 19th century?  In the first place, we now understand from scholars like Gregory Clark that 1800, the fulcrum of the industrial revolution, represented also a demographic hinge point.  In Britain, where the industrial revolution began, an ageless demographic of downward social mobility switched to upward social mobility, as the children of the poor not just survived — population rose from 16 million in 1801 to 27 million in 1851 — but the larger population now grew up to a more prosperous life than their parents.  And we have the fact of rising incomes wherever the industrial revolution took hold: from $3 per capita per day in 1800 to $120 per capita per day at the turn of the 21st century.  If the new barons of industry were exploiters, they were clearly leaving plenty of loot for their workers.  And indeed, beginning with the textile revolution, the whole of modern economic life has centered around mass-produced products for the masses, and there could not be mass production without mass consumption.

Modern capitalism is essentially mass production for the needs of the masses.  The buyers of the products are by and large the same people who as wage earners cooperate in their manufacturing.6

The people buying the mass-produced products had to be able to afford to buy them.  It may not be possible to make a definitive statement about exploitation, but the evidence of a sudden turn to two to three percent annual growth in income starting in 1800 after centuries of zero net growth suggests that the exploitation argument is beside the point.  Whatever the facts about exploitation, ordinary people were getting prosperous in the wake of industrialization, and the increasing prosperity continued through wars, economic crises and political revolutions.

If the social problem of the industrial age really did reduce to a problem of exploitation as the educated class claimed, then the solution might indeed have reduced to political power and government force.  But then human society is nothing but a system, the instantiation of an elite rational judgment about social relations.  All that would be needed was an educated elite with the imagination to conjure up a plan of the ideal society and the demos would provide the political muscle to enforce it; together the members of the progressive coalition would create a political system to roll back the exploiters.  But this view reduces human society to a rational plan implemented and enforced by political power.  If unmediated instrumental reason is pure domination, whether scientific, economic, or political, then a rational plan enforced by political power reduces down to exploitation, not the exploitation practiced by the feudal elite of the agricultural age “veiled by religious and political illusions,” or the “naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation” of the bourgeoisie of early industrial capitalism, but systematic exploitation of a subject people by a rational plan of a new ruling class, the “new class,” as Milovan Djilas called the ruling class of the “authoritarian welfare state.”  

If human society is nothing more than instrumental reason and applied political power then society is no longer social and humans are not social animals.  The whole point of social animals is that between the socialized animals there is some relation more beneficial, more efficient, more adaptive than force.  In the great apes the socialization is anchored by the power of the dominant males, but in hunter-gatherer humans the power of dominant males was mitigated by the faith in divine justice, the notion that the gods would judge anti-social actions.  After an initial relapse into pure domination in the agricultural age, a push-back against force began, not later than the Axial Age when Confucius in China, Buddha in India, and the Hebrew prophets began to create a social space separate from political power.  They invented the notion of the responsible self.  

Let us suppose that the fundamental social problem for humans in the last two thousand years has been the challenge of moving to the city and learning how to thrive in an urban society, how to make sense of the world of the city.  Where do you look for inspiration and the strength to overcome the inevitable obstacles?  The answer, of course, is religion, for religion, according to Robert Bellah, “is a set of symbolic forms and acts which relate man to the ultimate conditions of his existence.”7  It follows from this that when the ultimate conditions of existence change, then religion will change with it.  It stands to reason that when a man or a woman removes from the agricultural life to the urban life, as humans progressively have done, starting over 2,000 years ago and in their millions every year over the last 200 years, then their religion, their means of relating to the ultimate conditions of existence, is bound to change too.  Bellah has identified the basis of this great social movement: he calls it the move to “historic religion” and the invention of the “responsible self” who “can understand reality and through salvation participate in it.”8  In the old days, in the agricultural life, people are to a great extent at the mercy of the elements and their lord.  They sit on the land, wait for the seasons, and hope that the lord will favor them.  They also must truckle to the patriarch that rules their little family community.  But in the city the individual person is like a fish that must keep moving to pass oxygen over its gills; each individual in the city must keep moving forward, must keep working, must keep exchanging.  Even food is obtained not by growing it as the peasant does, or by seizing it as the great lord does, but by buying it with funds obtained after a week of producing for others, serving others, or trading in goods for others.  In the city, each individual self is responsible for making a difference in his life.  Not to do so, through wickedness or heedlessness, is a sin.  Amplifying Robert Bellah’s notion we may call the humans that have successfully learned to thrive in the city the People of the Responsible Self.

In the last millennium this emergent phenomenon manifested itself in the Reformation and the yearning to separate church and state, cultural power and political power.  People wanted to worship their God directly, and not through a mediating priesthood.  Parallel to the effort to differentiate the moral from the political came a new stream, to separate the political and the economic.  Analysts observed the operations of modern commerce and proposed the notion that a political hegemony over economic transactions was not needed for, as Adam Smith wrote, there seemed to be an invisible hand guiding economic actors to achieve their own ends by serving the ends of others.  This view informed the idea of the separation of powers in government in Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws that ended up in the US Constitution, and it developed into the idea of economic exchange as mutual benefit encoded in the law of comparative advantage first described by David Ricardo.

Humans are sustained by a faith that there is something more to life than mere exploitation of man by man, whether it is exploitation “veiled by religious and political illusions” or the more alarming naked exploitation diagnosed by Marx in the body of capitalism.  It is the faith in the “we” of society, that we can work together, that we can trust each other, that we can build lives for ourselves and our children and make the world a better place than we found it.  Plato develops this instinct into the notion of “true belief,” the combination of our experience and notions others have persuaded us to believe, a social consensus about the world and its meaning.  Habermas has developed this instinct into the notion of “discourse ethics,” that people develop social consensus by discussion and exchange of truth values.  His notion of “discourse” had emerged in Heidegger: “Discourse is the Articulation of intelligibility”,9 the way in which we make the world known to each other.

The lesson of the last two centuries backs up the idea that pure power is anti-social.  Economic power unrestrained by political power tends to exploitation; that certainly was the lesson that most people took from the 19th century.  The educated youth of the 19th century believed that the answer to unchecked economic power was a countervailing political power: not just a counterbalancing political power but a power that could prevail over the economic power.  As revolutionaries or as a rational educated elite, educated youth would smash the money power, not just file off its rough edges.  And they did.  But it turned out that countervailing political power, whether of the revolutionary or the rational kind, created its own problems.  If it didn’t utterly impoverish the people it promised to liberate, as in the Soviet Union, Maoist China, or the Cuba ruled by the Castro brothers, it found itself, by the logic of political power forced to maintain its rule, just like the Franks, with impossible promises of loot for its supporters that led in the end to national bankruptcy and sovereign debt default.  And the apologists for political power were wrong about another thing.  They thought that the taming of economic power would require a titanic battle of good versus evil, and they were delighted to arm themselves for this climactic war of the ages.  In the event, however, the war they planned turned out to be a damp squib.  Marx was wrong: economic power does not wish to dominate political power.  The fearsome robber barons submitted to the political power without a fight; then they retired from business and invented modern philanthropy.  Business is business, not world domination, after all.  

But political power is a genie not so easily put back in the bottle, and the proper limitation of political power is the great question of the 21st century.  However it is dressed up in the decent drapery of apology, government is force, politics is division, and reason and its systems are domination.  Against the educated elite and its program of domination, the truth is that social animals thrive by minimizing force, dissolving division, and softening the hard edges of reason and system with compromise and trust, and the attempts to privilege political power over economic power have demonstrated again and again that the problem is not economic power but political power, not businessmen but politicians, not economic exploiters but political tyrants.

The question therefore is: how can power, economic or political, be restrained?  How can freebooters be kept in their home ports and freeloaders turned into productive citizens?  The answer that science is coming to assert is an old one.  The answer is religion.  It is to recent notions developed by social scientists of religion as the natural social prophylactic for the control of freeloading that we now turn.

 

1Nicholas Wade, The Faith Instinct, Penguin Press, p. 48.

2Richard Fletcher, The Barbarian Conversion, California UP, 1997, p. 195.

3Alan Macfarlane, The Origins of English Individualism, Blackwell, 1978, p. 26-27.

4Robert Lacey and Danny Danziger, The Year 1000, Back Bay, 2000, p. 77.

5Thomas Sowell, Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, Qwill, 1985, p. 68.

6Ludwig von Mises, Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Regnery, 1966, p. 590.

7Robert N. Bellah, “Religious Evolution,” American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3, p. 359.

8Ibid., p. 367

9Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, HarperOne, 1962, p. 203-204.

Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.americanmanifesto.org.

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The Crisis of the Administrative State
It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Government and the Technology of Power
If you scratch a social reformer, you will likely discover a plan for more government.

Business, Slavery, and Trust
Business is all about trust and relationship.

Humanity's Big Problem: Freebooters and Freeloaders
The modern welfare state encourages freeloaders.

The Bonds of Faith
No society known to anthropology or history lacked religion.

A Critique of Social Mechanics
The problem with human society reduced to system.

The Paradox of Individualism
Is individualism the gospel of selfishness or something else?

From Multitude to Civil Society
The larger the government, the smaller the society.

The Answer is Civil Society
In between the separated powers.

The Greater Separation of Powers
If you want to limit power then you must limit power.

Conservatism Three by Three
Conservatism, political, economics, and cultural.

The Culture of Involvement
Imagining lives without the welfare state

The Poor Without the Welfare State
Can the poor thrive without the welfare state?

The Middle Class Without The Welfare State
How would the middle class live without all those middle-class entitlements?

From Freeloaders to Free Givers
The path to the future lies through moral movements.

The Real Meaning of Society
Broadening the horizon of cooperation in the “last best hope of man on earth.”

conservative manifesto


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Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust


What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State


Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006


Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”


Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph


Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”


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©2011 Christopher Chantrill