Betrayal: American Conservatives and Capitalism
“Conservatism,” wrote Russell Kirk, “is the negation of ideology.” Kirk argued that conservatism wasn’t defined by a “system of ideological dogmata” but by the belief that “a people’s historic continuity of experience” is a better guide than “the abstract designs of coffee-house philosophers.” The conservative movement has forgotten his words. Abstractions and slogans, generously called “principles,” dominate its rhetoric. The most sacrosanct shibboleth for the past half-century has been “the free market.” This paramount “principle” is invoked to force conservatives to accept open borders, mass immigration, globalism, outsourcing, and other policies that infuriate ordinary Americans. Astonishingly, few conservatives have dared to challenge the “free market” orthodoxy—until now.
In late December, thousands of conservative students attended Turning Point USA’s Student Action Summit. One of the highlights was a discussion that turned into a debate between Tucker Carlson and the organization’s founder, Charlie Kirk. Mr. Carlson repeated some of the points from his now famous monologue on the economic and social costs of globalization, automation, and neoliberal economics. Charlie Kirk agreed with much of Mr. Carlson’s analysis, but placed most of the blame on the government. Mr. Carlson suggested that powerful companies are a bigger problem—and they don’t support conservatives anyway. He also implied national solidarity is a higher goal than free market orthodoxy. The crowd cheered, while Mr. Kirk desperately tried to discourage it and repeated pro-free market slogans. Mr. Kirk also downplayed the problems Mr. Carlson outlined.
“Maybe you should start to think of your country like a family?”
*crowd cheering* NO NO NO REEEE THE MARKET!! pic.twitter.com/2y5m12h7jr
— DEyADo the 12th 🇳🇬 (@NIGERIAAIRPLANE) January 23, 2019
Tucker: “If you start with these inflexible theories you wind up where we are now in a country where a small number of people are taking all the spoils, and you guys are shafted.”
Charlie Kirk: “Tucker, we’re not getting shafted.”
Tucker and crowd laughs pic.twitter.com/NNXoyKBk2j
— The Columbia Bugle 🇺🇸 (@ColumbiaBugle) January 25, 2019
Mr. Kirk’s main response to Mr. Carlson’s critique was that a real “free market” did not exist in America. For example, he conceded that American workers are suffering from bad trade deals with China. However, because Americans don’t have “real free trade” with China, Mr. Kirk suggested this isn’t an inherent flaw of the market. Mr. Carlson forcibly combatted this view, arguing that the free market ultimately means using cheap foreign labor while our countrymen remain poor.
Mr. Carlson argued that unless conservatives are willing to confront hostile elites and widespread social and economic problems, they will have a sweeping socialist program imposed on them. He’s probably right. While conservative pundits snipe at figures like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a recent poll found most voters support her plan for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on those making more than ten million dollars a year. Sean Hannity calls this policy “radical,” but almost half of self-identified Republicans approved of AOC’s plan to soak the rich.
A 2017 Pew Research Center analysis that divided Republican voters into four ideological clusters found that the second largest was a group called “Market Skeptical Republicans,” who were 12 percent of the general public and 22 percent of “Republican and Republican-leaning” voters. “Core Conservatives” constituted 13 percent of the public, but were a far larger share of those characterized as “engaged Republican and Republican-leaning voters,” at 43 percent. In other words, while ideological conservatives are likely to dominate the caucuses and party organizations, they are not representative of the larger public, nor do they define what all Republican voters believe.
Almost all “Market Skeptical Republicans” believe that “the economy unfairly serves powerful interests,” and a majority favors raising taxes on corporations and large businesses. These figures should be especially ominous for the free market faithful because they come at a time when the economy is performing well. Free markets can be an effective tool, but conservatives mistakenly claim they are perfect. By doing so, they also antagonize Market Skeptical Republican voters that the GOP needs to win elections, especially in the Rust Belt states Donald Trump carried in 2016.
It’s also bizarre that conservatives continue to sacrifice their political position by fighting for unpopular policies rather than the populist stances that put them in office. President Trump made no progress on the border wall when Republicans controlled Congress, largely because the GOP put its effort behind cutting regulations, an incoherent health care plan, and tax cuts. Worse, many who benefited from deregulation and tax cuts are not conservative. Instead, America is dominated by a leftist elite that is increasingly open about its desire to deconstruct the nation, the family, religion, borders, sovereignty, and other institutions conservatives are supposed to defend.
A recent analysis from the Capital Research Center found Democrats are more reliant than Republicans on campaign contributions from America’s richest neighborhoods in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. In the 2018 midterm elections, Democrats increased their hold on America’s wealthiest congressional districts. “[D]ata suggest these affluent voters have pocketed the tax cut and went out and voted for the Democrats,” said the Hoover Institute’s Jeremy Carl. The country’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, owns the liberal Washington Post, and Amazon removes products at the demand of leftist interest groups. Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook is biased against conservatives and has helped ruin several conservative websites by manipulating its algorithm. Despite President Trump delivering on a largely unpopular tax cut for the wealthy, the Koch Brothers have pledged not to support him during the 2020 election. Michael Bloomberg finances pro-immigration and pro-gun control causes and may be a Democratic candidate in the 2020 presidential election. The original taunt of “cuckservative” applied to conservatives “who hurt their own supporters and humiliate themselves.” It’s hard to imagine a worse form of cucking than sacrificing for the interests of a class of left-wing billionaires.
More broadly, one of the lifelines of “democracy” is in danger when the flow of information is controlled by a few private interests. The endless investigation into “Russian disinformation” shows that both Republicans and Democrats realize that online information sways election results. Mr. Carlson pointed out during his talk that this information is chiefly controlled by Google. “Who is actually likely to suppress your ability to say and think what you want or prevent you from getting a job—Google or the US government?” he asked. “It’s not even close!” Mr. Kirk’s lame response was to suggest pulling government contracts and subsidies from Google, something Mr. Carlson retorted would hardly hurt Google’s bottom line.
Ultimately, Mr. Kirk was not willing to entertain anything that would challenge the existing corporate power structure, even if it is opposed to everything he believes in. This isn’t surprising given that his organization exists to “empower” activists who fight for “free markets and limited government.” In any conflict, the side that focuses on the process rather than the end is the losing side, so it’s not surprising that “movement conservatism” has failed to conserve anything important. If politics is about power, the conservative movement isn’t a political movement. It tells its followers that “principles” don’t allow the defense of real “interests.” Mr. Kirk isn’t “empowering” his followers; he is disarming them.
Ironically, the pinned Tweet on Mr. Kirk’s feed is not about “free markets.” It’s about a policy the Chamber of Commerce opposes:
This is why we need a wall
Illegal immigration is a serious threat to our country
90% of all heroin comes across the border
Thousands of kids are Sex trafficked
Illegals cost US taxpayers $135 billion a year
We support the shutdown for a wall!
— Charlie Kirk (@charliekirk11) December 22, 2018
This rhetorical appeal to populism is a familiar tactic of Conservatism, Inc. When grassroots conservatives fume over the latest left-wing cultural and social outrages, Beltway conservative functionaries and politicians exploit the discontent to raise money and promote themselves, but rather than using the money to fight back on cultural issues, they put more effort into conservative “principles,” such as “limited government” and “free markets.” Ordinary Americans lured in with promises of combating “illegal immigration” or “left-wing bias on campus” get tax cuts and deregulation for Nike and Gillette. Thus, they end up serving the same elite responsible for most of the policies that outraged them in the first place.
What the Beltway conservative movement ultimately conserves is the supremacy of a hostile elite. This is the classic “respectable conservatism” so lauded by the likes of National Review. Rather than “conservatism,” it is best called collaboration.
Joe Sobran captured movement conservatism’s essence when he called it “a game, a way of making a living.” Anyone who takes conservatism seriously and oppose political correctness jeopardizes Conservatism, Inc.’s controlled opposition status, and is quickly expelled. This leads to cynicism, and those who remain are unprincipled careerists. Some move on to a better racket—conservative donors have launched the careers of “up-and-coming conservative stars” such as Oliver Darcy, Betsy Woodruff, and Kaitlin Collins who eventually defect to better funded leftist outlets and denounce their former comrades.
Mr. Carlson is an authentic conservative who recognizes that capitalism, which “privileges efficiency above all,” can undermine the institutions, social norms, and community bonds that are necessary for society. To a patriot, one’s country must be more than a continent-sized shopping mall. Ultimately, the question is whether the economy is a tool that serves the nation, or whether the nation serves the economy. If the American conservative movement decides it is the latter, it is no position to complain about the decline of patriotism or religion.
Capitalism can undermine the family. If “labor has less value than when I was a kid,” as Mr. Carlson said, then it is harder for workers to start a family or afford a home. If conservatives can’t recognize this, they shouldn’t pose as “pro-family.” A real “pro-family” policy is Affordable Family Formation long suggested by Steve Sailer, or the Hungarian government’s program of subsidizing families and restricting immigration.
None of this, Mr. Carlson would undoubtedly add, is “racist.” Americans of all races suffer from the drug epidemic, the decline in living standards, and mass migration’s downward pressure on wages.
And yet race is central to everything Mr. Tucker is talking about. European-Americans are especially vulnerable to these destructive trends because they have had their racial, national, and cultural identities ripped away. Though leftists often argue that capitalists promote nationalism or racism to “keep workers divided,” the opposite is true. Noam Chomsky famously stated that capitalism “wants people to be interchangeable cogs” and race, as a “human characteristic,” is a “nuisance” in this. Marinated in a culture of self-hatred and told by their supposed conservative defenders that they are just economic units, it’s not surprising many whites end it all with the bottle, a needle, or a bullet.
Capitalism is a tool, not an idol. By exposing capitalism’s threat to the American nation, Tucker Carlson has provided a great service to the American Right. The demographic replacement of white America and the white working class aren’t the results of a natural process. They are the products of specific choices made by American elites and policymakers. The controlled opposition of movement conservatism prevents whites from challenging these elites. Movement conservatism, in its current form, contributes to the hopelessness plaguing so many of our people.
The whites who built America were not meant to be cogs in a soulless machine, nor servants of a hostile elite. No one in power seems to care about their suffering. American whites must become masters over both our economic and our political destinies.