The Left-Right Anti-Market Convergence


In its May 7, 2007 issue, the American Conservative excerpted Ben Barber's anti-market screed Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, a book, wrote Brink Lindsey in the WSJ, that sounded as if it was written "by the grumpiest of social conservatives," despite the author being a "proud progressive." Now Barber is winning plaudits from another figure on the right, Dallas Morning News columnist and Crunchy Cons author Rod Dreher. (Robert Stacey McCain reviewed Crunchy Cons for reason here)

Dreher, a former senior editor at National Review, thinks that conservatism's biggest enemy is not the government or the Democrats, but the free market:

What's the greatest challenge facing American conservatives today? Liberalism? Don't I wish. That would be relatively easy to defeat. No, it's capitalism.

You read that right. Conservatives have to come to terms with the fact that capitalism, in its current form, undermines not only the virtues necessary to the kind of society conservatives claim to want, but ultimately risks subverting itself.

In his new book, Consumed, political scientist Benjamin Barber writes that ours is the first society that acts as if its survival depends on keeping maturity – which involves learning to master one's impulses – at bay. There is little in American political, religious, social or economic life that prizes restraint and sacrifice for a higher purpose.

"This strategy makes good commercial sense," writes Mr. Barber, because of the market's need "to sell unnecessary goods to people whose adult judgment and tastes are obstacles.

Dreher thinks that the hyperconsumer cannot, alas, govern their dangerous spending habits, and is putting the entire US economy at risk:

Democracy requires virtue. So does a healthy capitalism. A nation that cannot govern its own appetites will, in time, be unable to govern itself. An economy that divorces economic activity from the restraining virtues that make for good stewardship will implode.

Full column here .