“The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children.”
Paleo-conservative commentator Tucker Carlson hits the nail squarely on the head! To his inestimable credit, he steers between the Scylla of socialism, and the Charybdis of mercantile plutocracy to place conservatism in its proper context: protection of family, culture, and society.
“Donald Trump rode a surge of popular discontent all the way to the White House. Does he understand the political revolution he harnessed? Can he reverse the economic and cultural trends that are destroying America? Those are open questions. But they’re less relevant than we think. At some point, Donald Trump will be gone. The rest of us will be too. The country will remain. What kind of country will be it be then? How do we want our grandchildren to live?
“These are the only questions that matter. The answer used to be obvious: the overriding goal for America is more prosperity, meaning cheaper consumer goods. But is that still true? Does anyone still believe that cheaper iPhones, or more Amazon deliveries of plastic garbage from China are going to make us happy? They haven’t so far. A lot of Americans are drowning in stuff. Yet drug addiction and suicide are depopulating large parts of the country. Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot.”
Amen! There is a world of difference between mere economic standard of living – which has been slipping for decades, anyway – and quality of life. Far too many, on both sides of the political aisle, absolutely fail to realize or appreciate that fact! Economic solvency is essential to life and security. Until one is economically secure, one has difficulty focusing on the higher things, as I have reason to know from my own experience.
FDR, liberal progressive though he was, was absolutely correct when he asserted, in his so-called “economic bill of rights,” that “true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. Necessitous men are not free men,” and called for, among other things,
The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation
The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;
The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living
The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad
The right of every family to a decent home
The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health
The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.
These ought not, in my opinion, to be arguable. We may argue about how they may best be accomplished; but not, I believe, about the fundamental principles themselves.
Note that FDR starts, not with “entitlements,” but with “a useful and remunerative job,” and the rights to “earn enough,” to “raise and sell [one’s] products,” and “to trade.” Only then does he move on to what is sometimes called the “social safety net,” for those who, for reasons beyond their control, suffer from “old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment.” That is putting things in their proper order!
Note also that (despite the expression “second” or “economic bill of rights”) these were “proposed not to amend the Constitution, but rather as a political challenge, encouraging Congress to draft legislation to achieve these aspirations.”
At any rate, economic security, grounded in fair and equitable employment, and a fair and equitable return on one’s investment – whether capital or labour – is essential for a reasonable quality of life. But prosperity, for its own sake, or as an absolute goal, is not only an illusion, it is an idol. Here’s Tucker Carlson again:
“The goal for America is both simpler and more elusive than mere prosperity. It’s happiness. There are a lot of ingredients in being happy: Dignity. Purpose. Self-control. Independence. Above all, deep relationships with other people. Those are the things that you want for your children. They’re what our leaders should want for us, and would if they cared. But our leaders don’t care. We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule. They’re day traders. Substitute teachers. They’re just passing through. They have no skin in this game, and it shows. They can’t solve our problems. They don’t even bother to understand our problems.”
As a Christian and a traditionalist, I would add a proper relationship with God, and the pursuit of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful, to the list of ingredients required to be fully happy! But Carlson, of course, is speaking to a wider audience, and I cannot disagree with anything he says, here.
The problem is that our supposed “elites” are generally made up of neoliberals and neoconservatives who are basically two sides to the same coin. I strongly recommend that you read and/or listen to all of Carlson’s rather epic monologue! But as he accurately points out,
“Both [libertarians – which include many who claim to be either “liberal” or “conservative,” politically and socially – and social conservatives] miss the obvious point: culture and economics are inseparably intertwined. Certain economic systems allow families to thrive. Thriving families make market economies possible. You can’t separate the two…
“[Doing so] is negligence on a massive scale. Both parties ignore the crisis in marriage. Our mindless cultural leaders act like it’s still 1961, and the biggest problem American families face is that sexism is preventing millions of housewives from becoming investment bankers or Facebook executives.”
Yet (as Carlson points out) a culture which set up investment bankers or Facebook executives as the goal for which we ought to be striving is, itself, a big part of the problem! As I say, economic prosperity, pursued for its own sake, is not only an illusion, but idolatry. In contrast, Carlson asks us to consider:
“What kind of country do you want to live in? A fair country. A decent country. A cohesive country. A country whose leaders don’t accelerate the forces of change purely for their own profit and amusement. A country you might recognize when you’re old. A country that listens to young people who don’t live in Brooklyn. A country where you can make a solid living outside of the big cities. A country where Lewiston, Maine seems almost as important as the west side of Los Angeles. A country where environmentalism means getting outside and picking up the trash. A clean, orderly, stable country that respects itself. And above all, a country where normal people with an average education who grew up no place special can get married, and have happy kids, and repeat unto the generations. A country that actually cares about families, the building block of everything.
“What will it take a get a country like that? Leaders who want it.”
Which means, of course, that we the people will have to elect them! And / or, pressure our existing leaders to behave more like the servants of the people they are supposed to be, and less the “mercenaries” of which Carlson speaks.
“For now, those leaders will have to be Republicans. There’s no option at this point. But first, Republican leaders will have to acknowledge that market capitalism is not a religion. [emphasis added] Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families isn’t worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society.”
Again, amen. Amen and amen!
Read the essay, or listen to / watch the monologue. It’s worth it!
And then, let’s do what we can to work toward that sort of country. We had it once, and therefore we can again.