As we have seen, the Tory, the classical conservative whose believes in a stable and secure social and civil order in which royal and ecclesiastical authority pursue their shared vocation to cooperate for the common good, accepts market capitalism with many reservations and qualifications, and rejects socialism with a few light reservations. The market, he insists, can only be the force for good that liberals maintain that it is, in the context of the secure civil order and a culture informed by a moral tradition that supplies the brakes on human avarice that the market itself does not contain. Completely unfettered, as the liberal believes it ought to be, market capitalism becomes an idol that enslaves man rather than a servant that works for his good and a force that dissolves the social and civil order and the moral tradition. To alleviate the misery that had been brought about by the transition from feudal, rural, agrarianism to modern, urban, industrialism and to protect against the threat of revolutionary socialism, Tories introduced modest social legislation with the goal of healing the rift between rich and poor and reuniting them into “one nation”. Social legislation, unfortunately, has the tendency to grow and expand into what today we call the welfare state, more accurately called the provider state, which is as deleterious to the social and civil order and the moral tradition as unfettered capitalism. It allows people to think of themselves as generous and charitable, not for cultivating the virtue of liberal magnanimity by the giving of what is their own, but for voting help to the needy out of what is their neighbours’. It does harm by contributing to illiteracy, illegitimacy, the absence of fathers, high rates of criminal activity and victimization, substance abuse, and multigenerational poverty and dependence, among the people it is designed to help. It hinders the reforming of the organic ties, relationships, and institutions that were uprooted by the advent of capitalism.
The provider state is also one aspect of the convergence of capitalism and socialism that has taken place over the last century. A little over a century ago, Hilaire Belloc predicted this convergence in a book entitled The Servile State. In the struggle between capitalism and socialism, Belloc argued, neither was destined to prevail over the other but both together were moving towards the creation of system in which the bulk of society would consist of a labour force that would work for the owners of capital in times of economic prosperity and be maintained by the state in times of economic hardship. What Belloc called “the servile state” is remarkably similar to what Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn called the provider state.
It is ironic, perhaps, that in the decades following World War II when capitalism and socialism were most at odds with each other, as their avatars in the United States and Soviet Union respectively, were locked in what James Burnham called a “struggle for the world” with each other, that it became most apparent that the two were converging in the way Belloc had predicted. That the two would ultimately converge, however, is not in itself ironic, despite the tendency of the advocates of each to represent the other as their polar opposite, for both are manifestations of modern thought. The liberal who believes in capitalism and the leftist who believes in socialism both alike think of man primarily as a producer, distributor, and consumer of material goods. Furthermore, both tend to see man on a universal scale rather than in the context of a rooted tradition. Most importantly, both conceive of human history, especially that of the modern age, as moving forward from a past of darkness and suffering to a future of happiness and light. They are both, in other words, progressive.
That which unites the liberal and the socialist, separates both from the Tory, who is not a progressive. Canada’s most distinguished Tory thinker, George Grant, explained how the modern concept of progress was a secular mutation and perversion of the Christian doctrine of the Kingdom of God. Christianity teaches that God acts through history, particularly through the events recorded in the Gospels, to accomplish man’s salvation, to be fully unveiled in the future Kingdom of God. Modern man, has retained this general idea of the shape of history, in which he has replaced the Kingdom of God with the Kingdom of Man, thus arriving at the concept of progress. (1) In his best known book Grant described this Kingdom of Man, the end to which the age of progress is moving, as a “universal and homogenous state”. While Marxists thought that theirs was the true vision of progress and condemned American capitalism as reactionary, Grant argued that the American liberal had the truer understanding of the nature of the future state, one in which man would be completely free to remake himself and his world according to his will and that American capitalism rather than socialism would prove to be the means whereby the universal state is to be achieved. (2) As a Tory, however, Grant took a sceptical view of that universal state, looking back to the wisdom of the ancients, who held that a universal state would be a state of tyranny.
In one sense, history has borne out his assessment that the universal state would be that of the liberal rather than the Marxist in that the side of capitalism certainly won the Cold War, ushering in a new era that has been thought of by many as a Pax Americana. In this era, countries that have retained the Communist creed, such as Red China, have introduced market reforms, so as not to repeat the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, and socialist parties in Western countries such as Roy Romanow’s NDP in Saskatchewan in the 1990s and Tony Blair’s “New Labour” in the United Kingdom have also embraced the market economy. This is only one side of the picture, however.
As socialism has embraced the market, seemingly being taken over from the inside by capitalism, liberal capitalism in turn has embraced key elements of socialism. In the second chapter of The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, identified certain means whereby the industrial workers, having seized political power and become the ruling class, would wrest capital from the bourgeoisie and centralize it in the State and revolutionize the mode of production. They listed ten such measures as being “generally applicable” in “most advanced countries”. The second, fifth, sixth, and tenth of these have been implemented in all capitalist countries as have, to one degree or another, several of the others. (3) The capitalism that has conquered socialism from the inside, in other words, has itself been deeply penetrated by Marxism.
While Grant’s assertion that capitalism, rather than socialism, is the vehicle of progress must, therefore, be qualified by the recognition that the capitalism in question is one that has converged with socialism into the servile state predicted by Belloc, that it is moving us towards the “universal and homogenous state” is evident and indeed, is a fact celebrated by some of its advocates. (4) Nowhere is this more evident than in the phenomenon of globalization, the economic integration of the markets of the world, which phenomenon gives further testimony to how capitalism and socialism have converged in that among the main charges levelled against the corporations that profit from globalization is that these capitalist companies sell good manufactured in sweatshops in Communist China.
Globalization has been brought about through the means of free trade treaties negotiated between countries, both regionally as in the European Common Market and NAFTA, and on a global scale, such as in GATT. Free trade, in which tariffs and other protections of domestic markets are dropped to facilitate trade across national boundaries, has been a key element of liberal economics since Adam Smith and while the arguments for it from an economic point of view are not entirely lacking in merit, it has long been the element of free market economics of which the Tory has been most suspicious and for good reason, not least of which being that liberal advocacy of free trade being so often dressed up in utopian dreams of establishing a permanent world peace. While the Tory’s reasons for favouring specific protection policies may vary from age to age, and place to place, from the protection of a rural agrarian economy in the early nineteenth century Corn Laws in Britain to the protection of a developing manufacturing economy in the late nineteenth century economic nationalism of the Conservative Party in Canada, he accepts that the obvious truth of Ludwig von Mises’ argument that governments lack the ability to calculate what is best economically for everyone in their country individually, does not apply to their ability to determine what is best for their country collectively. It is in no country’s best interests to so integrate national markets that those who profit the most are companies and individuals with no patriotic loyalty or attachment.
There are, of course, many who make a big show about protesting against globalization every time there is a trade summit of some sort, but to the extent that they have any motive other than “it’s the cool thing to do” or “my teacher says I ought to”, it is much more like the envy that drives socialism than any patriotic objection to global integration. Indeed, their complaints against globalization are expressed in explicitly anti-patriotic language that depicts their own countries as villains and other people on the other side of the world as virtuous victims. The Tory recognizes that these are no true allies in the patriotic fight against globalization and the progressive universal state.
(1) George Grant, Philosophy in the Mass Age, (Toronto: Copp Clark Publishing, 1959), especially chapter four "History as Progress"
(2) Geroge Grant, Lament for a Nation, (Toronto: Carleton University Press, 1965, 1978, 1989 ).
(3) The second was “A heavy progressive or graduated income tax”, the fifth “Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly”, the sixth “Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State” and the tenth “Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children’s factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.” Three of these have been implemented in full. The means of communication and transport have been placed under strong state regulatory bodies rather than outright nationalized. To varying extents almost all of the others have been implemented as well.
(4) Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, (New York: Free Press, 1992).
My Last Post
6 months ago