Futures and Options

Just another town along the road.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Relationship Between Economic and Cultural Liberalism

…”liberalism” used here in the modern-day sense. Please watch this fascinating discussion between Peter Robinson and Charles Kesler. All five parts of the interview are worth viewing, but I found this segment particularly enlightening. Kesler’s thesis is that the progressive notion of economic rights that came alive under Wilson and especially FDR had the effect of liberating citizens from what were formerly considered core virtues — what we today call “family values” — which were largely indispensable in exercising one’s economic freedoms (providing for yourself and your family). Indispensable, that is, until the government took it upon itself to provide those basic economic necessities to everyone. With old-fashioned individual virtue no longer a prerequisite for economic survival, individuals were free to explore beyond the bounds of traditional morality. In short, the New Deal made the Sexual Revolution possible.

As Kesler acknowledges, some of the evolution of traditional “family values” is attributable to changes in the overall economy that made it more conducive for women to earn a living.  But the Sixties, he argues, went far beyond mere recognition and acceptance of changing economic realities; the progressive movement at its core was an outright repudiation of traditional morality, made possible by the creation of the welfare state.  Much to think about there.

I suspect that libertarian-minded readers might disagree with this analysis, as it posits a definite link between traditional morality and economic freedom.  But I would note that Kesler’s worldview does not require a government-imposed morality (which libertarians find repugnant).  Rather, traditional morality was and is a tool to cope with economic realities when those realities are not taken care of by the government.  So government need not impose moral virtue; it need only keep its nose out of individuals’ economic business, and individuals will turn to virtue of their own accord.  The perversion of progressivism is that it removes the need to deal with economic reality, and so we find traditional virtues cast aside as no longer necessary to survival.

Incidentally, I find the Uncommon Knowledge series to be one of the best things on the web. Robinson doesn’t try to hide his conservatism, but he nevertheless elicits some challenging and enlightening commentary from his always impressive guests. Never a waste of time to watch his interviews.

posted by Strix nebulosa at 10:42  

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