Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Great Betrayal 7

In my latest reading of Pat Buchanan's The Great Betrayal: How American Sovereignty and Social Justice Are Being Sacrificed to the Gods of the Global Economy, Buchanan agrees with the insights of people who are considered to be villains by a number of conservatives, even as he criticizes the thoughts of one whom several conservatives regard as a hero.

Let's start with the villains.  Karl Marx said that protectionism is conservative, whereas free trade erodes nations and exasperates tensions between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  Because free trade accelerates revolution, in Marx's eyes, Karl Marx says that he supports it!

Buchanan, although he disagrees with free trade, says that "Karl Marx is right", for protectionism is conservative, whereas "free trade is raising the levels of antagonism in Europe and the United States----between working families and falling standards of living and national elites reveling in the Global Economy" (page 198).

Another villain in the eyes of the Right is the British economist John Maynard Keynes, who advocated government spending as a way to stimulate the economy.  According to Buchanan, Keynes started out as a "free-trade purist", but he became more of a protectionist during the Great Depression.  Buchanan speculates that "the hard reality of dying factories and foreign danger" contributed to Keynes' change of mind (page 205).  Buchanan actually admires Keynes for standing up for protectionism because he did so when free-trade was practically considered to be an item of economic orthodoxy: "It takes fortitude for a renowned man to concede that he has been wrong, that his critics were right, and then to adopt a position----protectionism----his contemporaries would decry as retarded if not immoral" (page 204).

Meanwhile, Ludwig von Mises is heralded as a hero by many on the Right, especially those who lean towards libertarianism.  Buchanan quotes von Mises as saying that free trade is good because it leads to people living and working wherever they desire as well as eliminates frontier boundaries, thereby getting rid of any need for one country to attack another country.  That means that, as a result of free trade, there would be neither war nor a need for a military, plus the state would not be a "metaphysical entity" (von Mises' words) but simply would protect the peace.  Buchanan scoffs at von Mises' utopianism and appeals to G.K. Chesterton: "When men cease to believe in God, said G.K. Chesterton, they do not then believe in nothing; they believe in anything" (page 201).

I have to admire Buchanan (a conservative) for being willing to see some good in the thoughts of those who are considered to be villains by a number of conservatives.  I used to read right-wing literature that loved to criticize people for being communists or communist sympathizers, and saying something positive about Karl Marx could land a person on a right-wing blacklist.  But acknowledging that Karl Marx had some valid observations and insights about what went on in the world does not mean that a person supports communism, especially as it was instituted in communist dictatorships.

What Buchanan said about Chesterton stood out to me because it reminded me of the dilemma that was presented before those of us who were in Armstrongism: You either trust in Christ to come to earth and establish a perfect political system, or you trust in human beings to set up their own utopias, which will fail because human beings are sinful and corrupt.  But, according to Armstrongism, you cannot do both.  Whether Chesterton had that mindset or not, I'm not sure.  This article says that he was a Distributist, and Distributism is a political ideology that is critical of both big government and also big business.  A friend of mine, who is a Distributist, said that Distributism is not exactly a political program that is executed from the top down, but it's something done from the bottom up----if more people buy their own property, for example, then there will be less property for big business to get its hands on.  I have much to learn about Distributism.  I will say, though, that Chesterton----even if he may have disagreed with political utopianism----did not seem to advocate throwing up our hands and waiting for Jesus to come back, but he thought that there are things that we can do to make the world a little better.

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